We all hate reading about children injured or killed in incidents involving firearms. But this particular case of gun safety (technically, the lack thereof) has a disturbing twist. The headline tells the story:
11-year-old charged in shooting death of 14-year-old friend
“An 11-year-old Lake City boy has been charged with manslaughter in the shooting death of his 14-year-old friend, the Columbia Sheriff’s Office announced [Dec. 28, 2018],” News 4 JAX reported.
Deputies said that “Carter and Jadon began to play wrestle to see if the family dog would respond to Carter being attacked. After that, Carter got a pistol from his parents’ room, took out the magazine and pointed it at Jadon. The gun went off, killing the teen.” (Emphasis ours. The gun did not “go off.” The boy admitted that he pulled the trigger.)
A horrible incident indeed, but even more disturbing was that, according to deputies, Carter lied, claiming self-defense by saying that Jadon “had tried to attack him with a knife.” During questioning, Carter and his brother finally admitted that they had put a kitchen knife near Jadon after the shooting.
Think about that: An 11-year-old just shot his friend, and the first thing he does is plant evidence and concoct a false story? Where did he even learn to think that way? That’s a conversation for another day.
At the USCCA, we always try to learn from horrific cases like this one. First and foremost, this story tragically underscores the importance of having complete control of your firearm at all times — especially if it’s not in your immediate possession, as in this case.
Leaving guns where young people, especially teenagers, can access them without adult supervision is simply bad judgement. Obviously, there are exceptions. Those who live in very rural areas, far from law enforcement services, may have to make certain concessions to ensure their children’s safety when home alone. And to be honest, we’ve all seen stories where relatively young children successfully used firearms to defend themselves and/or other family members.
Some of you will also argue that “my kids are well-trained” or that “they would never touch our guns when I’m not around.” However, even if that’s true, your kids have friends, many of whom are not trained in safe firearms procedures. And remember, even the best-trained kids are still kids. When teenagers get into a group setting, wanting to impress their friends can override their training (and common sense).
That being said, comprehensive firearms education is extremely important. The boy charged in this case is a perfect example of “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” Like many adults, he knew just enough to remove the magazine from an auto-loading pistol but failed to eject the live round in the chamber.
When you do train your children (or anyone else), make sure you cover all aspects of the safe handling of firearms. Then test them frequently to see if they remember. But no matter how responsible you believe them to be, always take the steps you deem necessary to prevent incidents like this one.
Bottom line? Every home situation is different. Where you live, the type of dwelling, the number of people who share the space — all can have an impact on your safety protocols. But one thing is for certain: You must develop those protocols and do everything possible to ensure that they are followed by everyone.
Safety is your responsibility … do your part.
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