LIVONIA, LA (WAFB) - About three dozen kids are getting a taste of law enforcement life. The Livonia Police Department hosted its second annual Junior Police Program to teach kids about honesty, integrity, and respecting law enforcement, but Wednesday's focus was gun safety.
Livonia Police Chief Brad Joffrion says it's never too early to teach the importance of safety when in the presence of a firearm. "When you put the human element behind it in a careless manner and is not familiar with the firearm and dangers the firearm can cause and not properly trained, that's where the problem arises," he said.
Holly Sheets is the law enforcement coordinator for the U.S. Attorney's Office Middle District of Louisiana. She oversees the statewide program, LA Law Enforcement for Gun Safety. Members of several law enforcement agencies travel the state promoting firearm safety and the dangers of playing with guns.
"These small children get curious and find guns and start playing with them, just as much as the older ones do, so if we can teach them young about the dangers of guns, hopefully prevent some of these accidents," said Sheets.
Sheets says Louisiana ranks second in the nation for accidental gun deaths among youth and camp participants want to help lower that ranking. "I wanna' protect myself when someone has a gun, get out of there, or get away from them to save my life so I can live a much longer life," said Abigail Hawkins, a camp participant.
"Don't play with guns and if you see a friend that has a gun, walk away slowly," said Leah Grimmett, another camp participant.
Campers also learned a bullet can travel several hundred feet within seconds, so the interaction between a person and the gun isn't a joke. "Treat every gun as if it's loaded. Don't think a gun is empty just because you take the magazine out. There still could be one in the chamber and that could still risk someone's life," said Hawkins.
Law enforcement encouraged the children to not be fooled by the size, color, or shape of a firearm because even fake guns have a serial number.
"We're trying to get the point across that these are not toys. They're not meant to play with. It's not like what you see in video games. Once the bullet leaves the barrel of that gun, there's no taking that bullet back. What's done is done at the point," said. Sargent Brian Firmin.