Frank Herndon, a Leesburg Police Officer and salesman at Backwoods Outdoors
LEESBURG, GA (WALB) -
South Georgia gun safety experts are urging gun owners to lock up their weapons and keep them out of reach of children following a fatal accident involving a 10 year-old Waycross girl.
For many Americans, the fascination with firearms starts at a young age. "Guns are like a magnet for kids. They see them on TV all the time and they pick them up," said Frank Herndon, a gun salesman at Backwoods Outdoors.
That interest claimed 10 year-old Taylor Marie Jowers' life after she asked to hold her teenage brother's 12-gage shotgun, which fired while he was unloading the weapon. Deputies arrested the victim's father when they determined he shouldn't have had weapons in the house. Joshua Jowers has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Detectives seized several other guns from the home.
"You know, why did he have it out? Where were the parents," asked Herndon. He's a Leesburg Police Officer, served in the military, and has a lot of experience with firearms. "The magazine was probably loaded in the (brother's) weapon and the chamber was empty, and when he went to open to check it, he probably put a round in the chamber," he said while demonstrating on a 12 gage shotgun in his store.
Hernon said parental supervision and storing ammunition separate from weapons could have prevented the accident. "If you think the child is gonna be able to get to it (the gun), lock it up," he said. "Put it in a safe, or put the gun lock on it."
The Centers for Disease and Control says 62 children under the age of 14 died from accidental gunshots in 2010. Gun safety experts say every firearm should be treated as though it's loaded. To avoid any tragedies, make sure to point weapons in a safe direction before handling them.
"Learn the fundamentals of handling the weapon," Herndon said.
He said children interested in hunting should also be gradually introduced to firearms. "Don't buy a ten year-old child a .30-06," he said. "Buy them something that's size manageable for that child. Something that's gonna be easy for that child to learn how to use the safeties on it, and how to use the action of the gun."
Herndon says gun locks offer extra protection. He said gun owners can request free replacements of safety manuals and gun locks from the weapon's manufacturer if they get lost over time. He also gun owners to attend gun safety classes.