Community activist pushes parents to improve gun safety after accidental shootings involving children

Piedmont Triad News

FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Keeping guns out of the hands of children has been Frankie Gist’s main mission, but it has now taken on a new form after local children have been hurt or killed in a series of accidental shootings.

A report by the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that between 2014 and 2018, roughly 13,000 children died or were injured in accidental shootings.

In 2019, 85% of children killed by a firearm died in their own home.  

“The person who may have made the mistake and pulled the trigger may not be a bad person, may not have been a killer,” Gist explained. “But the fact of the matter was that a child was present.”  

Gist is with HOPE Dealer’s Outreach, a group in Winston-Salem that hosts rallies and education opportunities to help reduce gun violence amongst juveniles.

“We have a big problem, but we have to start addressing it. We have to start moving forward and following through,” he said.

Gist’s focus is now growing to include gun education workshops, or neighborhood walks, to educate gun owners who may not have been through a rigorous education process.  

“We need to go to these neighborhoods. We need to go educate these people on how to get a gun properly safe,” he said.  

His push to parents and gun owners comes after six families in the Triad endured heartache or tough journeys due to loved ones being hurt by accidental shootings.

Since Jan. 31, there have been six accidental shootings that have involved young children. The oldest was 15, and the youngest was 23-months-old.  

On Jan. 31, Dytwan Gatling, 15, was shot and killed in Greensboro after one of his friend’s guns accidentally went off.

On Feb. 19, an 8-year-old girl was accidentally shot in the head inside of her house by her mother’s firearm. The mother was later charged, and the child was seriously injured but survived.

On May 5,  two children in a Burlington apartment complex shot and hurt their 14-year-old neighbor while they were playing with their mother’s firearm.

On June 16, an Elon Police officer suffered the loss of their three-year-old after the child got a hand on the officer’s service weapon.

On July 25, a High Point mother lost her four-year-old after they got a hand on their firearm.

The most recent case happened on Sept. 4, after Deon Stover, 23-months-old, was accidentally shot by their babysitter as they were unloading a firearm.

“The child was present. Not only was the child present, but the gun was around that child. How do we teach our adults how to better keep these guns safe?” Gist said.

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