THE INVESTIGATORS: Community leaders work to tackle accidental shootings among kids

Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 6:23 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Within the last month, there have been at least two tragic scenes that have played out that involved a child somehow getting their hands on a gun and shooting themselves or others.

On Friday, July 8, a 4-year-old was playing with a gun in a car on Prescott Road before shooting himself. He later died and his father now faces charges.

About three weeks ago on Tuesday, June 21, in Baker, a 3-year-old child found a gun inside their home on Ray Weiland Drive and within minutes there was a pop. That child survived but Sgt. L’Jean Mckneely with the Baton Rouge Police Department says this should not be happening because it’s 100 percent preventable.

“It’s all about being accountable and being responsible,” said McKneely. “We know that people have guns in their house and in their car for protection and when you have a gun hidden inside your house there are measures that you can take as far as making that gun safe.”

One of those steps includes locking up your gun. Lt. Leonard Harry says it is the easiest way for folks to secure their guns. If there’s any concern that the gun can’t be accessed quickly in case of an emergency, officials say that should not be a problem.

“Oh once you’ve locked it, all you have to do is just get your key and unlock it,” said Harry. “Let’s say this one is already in and you have a perpetrator that comes in.. you just take your key, unlock it, pull it out, put your magazine in and put it back in battery and you’re ready to go.”

Folks can actually get their hands on the gun locks for free. The department as well as many other city-parish offices and community centers across the area have the free gun locks for anyone who wants them. Officials are begging people to come get as many as they need to secure their guns and keep their children safe.

“These gun locks are being donated to us,” said McKneely. “They’re given to us as an attempt to make it safe for everyone.”

The troubling trend is happening at an alarming rate. According to data collected by Every Town Research and Policy, in 2021 nationwide there were at least 392 unintentional shootings by children and 163 of them died. During that same time frame in Louisiana, there were 20 shootings and seven deaths.

“The parents are affected by it. The kids, the extended family and members of the community are affected because it’s such a tragic thing that happens when someone accidentally hurts themselves or kills themselves as a result of playing with a gun,” said McKneely.

Back in 2019, the mayor’s office joined forces with area non-profits and law enforcement agencies for Project Child Safe, an initiative to prevent accidents like this from happening but Mckneely says it takes responsible gun owners doing the right thing to keep guns out of the hands of children.

“People believe that this is not going to happen to them or it can’t happen to them. I’m here to say, it can happen to you,” McKneely added.

Anyone wanting a free gun lock can get them at any area community center, police precinct or the mayor’s office at City Hall.

Locations are below.

Community Centers

  • Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center- 950 E Washington St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
  • Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center- 4000 Gus Young Ave, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
  • Charles R. Kelly Community Center- 3535 Riley St, Baton Rouge, LA 70805
  • Jewel J. Newman- 2013 Central Rd, Baton Rouge, LA 70807

BRPD

  • 1st District- 4445 Plank Rd, Baton Rouge, LA 70805
  • 2nd District- 2265 Highland Rd, Baton Rouge, LA 70802
  • 3rd District- 9000 Airline Hwy, Baton Rouge, LA 70815
  • 4th District- 8227 Scenic Hwy, Baton Rouge, LA 70807
  • 5th District- 201 3rd St, Baton Rouge, LA 70802

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