Accidental shooting kills child

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 22, 2005

An accidental shooting Monday night left a Sumter County family’s Christmas season in ruins.

Anfernee Jamal Carter, 4, of Meridian was killed Monday night on Jarman Road in the Kinterbish community when he and his 5-year-old cousin stumbled upon a loaded .410 shotgun. Sumter County Sheriff Johnny Hatter said the two were watching TV before discovering the gun in a nearby closet.

“Two young cousins were in their grandmother’s bedroom watching cartoons on TV,” Hatter said. “The 5-year-old found the gun in the closet and wanted to play with it. He told a family member later he was playing like he was in the army. He pointed the gun at a paint can on the floor and squeezed the trigger.”

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Family members thought they had unloaded the gun, but a malfunction left one in the barrel. When the child squeezed the trigger the gun went off striking Carter in the right thigh as he was sitting on the floor and damaging his femoral artery.

The family rushed the child to Hill Hospital in York, Hatter said, but he was pronounced dead on arrival.

The sheriff’s department was called by the hospital, Hatter said, around 7:37 p.m. and immediately began questioning witnesses and family members. Their investigation eventually revealed the tragic event.

Deputies recovered the weapon, where Hatter said they discovered a malfunction that caused the family to believe the gun was not loaded.

“We even had a hard time prying it (the shell) out,” Hatter said. “If you didn’t know about the guns malfunction and didn’t check it close, you wouldn’t think you had completely unloaded it.”

Hatter said this was an incident that would cause many people great pain.

“There is more than one victim here,” Hatter said. “There is a child who lost his life so needlessly and another child who still doesn’t understand what happened. There is also all the family members who have to grieve and try to recover from so much loss. I know that all our prayers are with them right now.”

The family had suffered the loss of a grandfather only two weeks ago and Hatter said they were still notifying relatives who were on the road from the last funeral.

Each year, law enforcement officers from around the state face similar accidents. However, most sheriff’s and police departments have a free supply of gunlocks that can help prevent accidental shootings.

Demopolis Public Safety Director Jeff Manuel said his department has an abundance of gunlocks and welcome

the public to put them to use.

“I encourage anyone in Demopolis, or anywhere else to make use of the free gunlocks,” Manuel said. “Most departments have them and welcome people to come by and pick them up. We encourage anyone, especially a home with small children and a weapon in the home to come by.”

National Rifle Association Safety tips:

The Parents’ Responsibility

In a home where guns are kept, the degree of safety a child has rests squarely on the child’s parents.

Parents who accept the responsibility to learn, practice and teach gun safety rules will ensure their child’s safety to a much greater extent than those who do not. Parental responsibility does not end, however, when the child leaves the home.

According to federal statistics, there are guns in approximately half of all U.S. households. Even if no one in your family owns a gun, chances are that someone you know does. Your child could come in contact with a gun at a neighbor’s house, when playing with friends, or under other circumstances outside your home.

It is critical for your child to know what to do if he or she encounters a firearm anywhere, and it is the parents’ responsibility to provide that training.

Talking With Your Child About Gun Safety

There is no particular age to talk with your child about gun safety. A good time to introduce the subject is the first time he or she shows an interest in firearms, even toy pistols or rifles. Talking openly and honestly about gun safety with your child is usually more effective than just ordering him or her to “Stay out of the gun closet,” and leaving it at that. Such statements may just stimulate a child’s natural curiosity to investigate further.

As with any safety lesson, explaining the rules and answering a child’s questions help remove the mystery surrounding guns. Any rules set for your own child should also apply to friends who visit the home. This will help keep your child from being pressured into showing a gun to a friend.

Toy Guns vs. Real Guns

It is also advisable, particularly with very young children, to discuss gun use on television as opposed to gun use in real life. Firearms are often handled carelessly in movies and on TV. Additionally, children see TV and movie characters shot and “killed” with well-documented frequency. When a young child sees that same actor appear in another movie or TV show, confusion between entertainment and real life may result. It may be a mistake to assume that your child knows the difference between being “killed” on TV and in reality.

If your child has toy guns, you may want to use them to demonstrate safe gun handling and to explain how they differ from genuine firearms. Even though an unsupervised child should not have access to a gun, there should be no chance that he or she could mistake a real gun for a toy.