PONTOTOC – The accidental shooting death of 8-year-old Russell McWhirter on Monday was a tragedy that child advocates say is repeated too often in homes across the country.
Russell had found a gun between bed mattresses at his grandfather’s house while he was straightening up. The gun went off and killed him.
According to Safe Kids USA, a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent accidental childhood injury, Russell’s tragedy is not unique.
“It’s sad to say that this happens in homes all across the country every day,” said Safe Kids spokesman Mike Hughes. “In Mississippi we’ve had at least four kids to die from accidental gunfire since 2008. Three of those were in Jackson. It’s just something people have to pay attention to go through the proper precautions to secure their guns.”
Accidental childhood injuries are a leading killer of children 14 and under. Unintentional shootings account for 20 percent of all firearm-related deaths among children 14 and under, said Hughes. Boys are more likely to be injured or killed by accidental gunfire, according to Safe Kids.
Law enforcement agencies recognize the need for securing guns safely in households. Police and sheriff’s departments offer free gun locks to residents that can be picked up at your local police or sheriff’s office. Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson said it’s important people use them.
“The gun locks work,” said Johnson. “They are to secure your weapon when it’s not in use and we advise anyone who has a gun to come pick one up. Guns are very dangerous if not put away properly, especially for kids.”
The gun lock has a cable that goes through the barrel of the gun and locks, preventing the weapon from firing.
“Children are curious, especially boys. If your gun is locked, if a child finds it he couldn’t fire it,” Johnson said.
Even though a gun lock is a good way to make a gun safer in the home, Hughes said gun owners should live by one rule – lock it up.
“Get a lock box, or a gun box and just lock it up,” he said. “Lock the gun in one place and the ammunition in another. It’s never good to have a loaded gun in the house, but if you do then you really need to make sure your kids don’t know where it is.”
Hughes also said educating children early about the dangers of guns is also a good way to prevent tragedies.
Contact Danza Johnson at (662) 678-1583 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Danza Johnson/NEMS Daily Journal