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Education is key in gun safety

LaGRANGE — A 7-year-old child remained listed in critical condition Monday evening at an Atlanta area hospital after being shot in the back by another child Sunday morning at an apartment on Revis Street.

The victim was among three children who found a handgun in the residence, and while one of them handled the weapon, it went off and struck the 7 year old, according to police. The circumstances in the case still remain under investigation, and it has been ruled an accidental shooting.

In the wake of the incident, LaGrange police Lt. Dale Strickland gave some tips about how to keep children safe around weapons and guns inside a home.

“Guns should be stored outside the reach of children and out of their sight,” Strickland said. “Children are very curious. If they see it, they will want to touch it.

“Children should be educated about guns at a young age. Even if the family doesn’t own a gun, they may come into contact with a gun while visiting another home. They should be taught not to handle the weapon and to make sure that others don’t either. They should be taught to notify an adult when a gun is discovered. If someone (another child) begins to handle a gun that has been discovered, the child should be taught to immediately leave the location and contact an adult. If an adult is not present, the child should call 911.”

Strickland said he also believed that guns should not be handled by children or teens without trained parental supervision.

“I believe adults should participate in or receive training on safely handling and operating firearms before they purchase one,” he explained. “We don’t allow people to operate motor vehicles without training and passing a test, why do we give people weapons without receiving training?

“Children don’t always make good decisions because their life experience is limited. They also don’t deal with conflict well. They don’t always understand the consequences of their decisions, and when the bullet has been fired from a gun, it cannot be called back.”

There are also several ways to keep children and teens from reaching guns and accidentally firing them inside a home. Strickland suggested a lockable device, like a gun safe or locker.

Trigger locks can be used on both long guns and hand guns, and can prevent a person from accessing and pulling a trigger, Strickland said. Cable locks also prevent firing and can be installed in unloaded weapons, he added.

“The cable is fished through the action/slide of the weapon where the weapon cannot be cycled or fired,” Strickland explained. “These locks are very cheap as well. All of the locks that I mentioned can be purchased locally at Walmart, Tractor Supply, at our local gun shops and online. Most guns that are purchased new these days come with a lock from the factory along with instructions on how to use them.”

LaGrange Police Department detectives are still investigating the incident on Revis Street. Police said the adults in the residence – a mother, grandmother and grandfather of the children – were in other rooms during the incident.

The investigation includes the circumstances of supervision of the children. Strickland said Monday that police also were trying to determine whom the gun belonged to. No charges had been filed.

In general, Strickland said in some cases where someone has allowed a child access to firearms, a number of charges could be filed including: child neglect, reckless conduct, allowing another to violate state law and more. The seriousness of the charges filed depends upon the circumstances surrounding the incident, he noted.