Whitfield County officials continue to investigate the death of 11-year-old Cassie Culpepper. Cassie’s 12-year-old brother apparently shot her while trying to “scare” her with a handgun he thought was unloaded.
Officials haven’t said yet how the boy got the gun, who the gun belonged to or whether they will file any charges. Cassie’s death can only be described as a tragedy.
And in late May in Bradley County, Tenn., the 3-year-old granddaughter of a state trooper who was staying at his home with her mother was playing with a 2-year-old cousin when they found a loaded .45-caliber handgun. Authorities investigating that incident believe the gunshot the 3-year-old later died from was self-inflicted.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, firearm accidents claimed the lives of 82 children under 18 in the United States in 2009, the latest year for which data are available. The South accounted for more than half of those deaths, with 48.
To put those numbers in perspective, motor vehicle accidents claimed the lives of 2,554 American children in 2009, drowning caused another 815 deaths, fires and burning killed another 343 and influenza and pneumonia claimed the lives of 455 children.
Accidental firearms death may be rare. But they should be even more rare.
Firearm owners, especially those who have children around the house, should secure — unloaded — any firearms they aren’t keeping for defense. Anyone who owns firearms should look into acquiring a good gun safe. If they can’t afford or don’t have room for a safe, gun owners can select any number of gun locks and lockable cases.
And all parents and guardians should teach their children about gun safety. The National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle program is designed for children in kindergarten to third grade. The NRA also has programs for older children and adults. Information on all those programs can be found on the NRA’s website (www.nra.org).
The Eddie Eagle program teaches a few simple rules that parents should make sure younger children know: If you see a gun, stop. Don’t touch it. Leave the area. Tell an adult.
Parents should teach older children, especially those who have access to firearms, the basic rules for handling firearms: Always assume a firearm is loaded. Never point it at anything or anyone you wouldn’t want to shoot. And never put your finger on the trigger unless you mean to fire the gun. And also important, obey those rules yourself. Observe proper gun safety at all times, but especially when children are around.
A few very simple steps can help prevent a terrible tragedy.
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