Accidental Shootings by Children


Accidental Shootings by Children

Posted on January 7, 2017 at 10:40 PM

An article written by Ryan Foley, Larry Fenn and Nick Penzenstadler featured in USA Today on October 14, 2016 reported children die of accidental shootings at the hands of themselves or other children at a rate of one every other day. Most of these shootings are inside homes, where a legal firearm is owned. Children ages 3 and 5 are the most susceptible to accidental shootings, with the second most susceptible group being teens. Young children tend to find a fascination with a firearm and how it works, while teens may like to show off their access to firearms to friends. In each situation, the curiosity and showing off makes these children, family members and friends unintentional targets of accidental shootings.

The incidents of accidental shootings have been overshadowed by a heated debate regarding the Second Amendment and gun ownership AKA “the gun debate”. Children’s lives should not be held captive by this debate. The solution to these preventable incidents is parental/child communication and education. Gun locks are a proven means to prevent accidental shootings by children, however, the purpose of maintaining a firearm in a home for protection may discourage a gun owner from using a gun lock. In this instance, a good holster should be used along with educating the children in the home about firearms and the danger they pose.

I met a nurse who was concerned with having a firearm in her home to protect her family. She asked what kind of holster I used and I told her to go to a firearms store and request a level three holster and to ask them about the safety features. I then told her she should have a conversation with her children about the dangers of firearms. The conversation with the nurse was one event that influenced the decision to write the story of Juan, Robert, Heather and their adventure involving a found firearm. Brownie Bear Teaches Gun Safety is written at a first-grade level and includes illustrations. It initiates a conversation about the dangers of firearms to deter accidental shootings involving children.

Foley, R., Fenn, L., & Penzenstadler, N. (2016, October 14). Chronicle of agony: Gun accidents kill at least 1 kid every other day. USA Today. Retrieved from usatoday.com

Are School Resource Officers Necessary?

What is a school resource officer and what do they really do? These questions are prevalent as communities and school districts determine whether a police presence and not simply additional firearm presence inside their schools is necessary. Incidents involving mass shootings and active shooter incidents have created a concern for the safety of children in school and at school-sponsored events, but, does having a police officer or two on school property decrease the likeliness of those incidents? Some community members believe the presence of police officers in the schools exacerbates the “school to prison pipeline” by criminalizing what would have been normal disciplinary issues. On the other hand, some community members believe the presence of police officers enhance the students understanding of the criminal justice system; thus decreasing negative interactions with law enforcement professionals.

The National Association of School Resource Officers provides specialized school resource officer training that describes the duties of a school resource officer as a teacher, informal counselor and lastly law enforcement officer.  Many school police departments focus on the safety and security of campuses and students by working with school administrators to create an environment that is safe and allows students to focus on the educational process.  In addition, school police departments develop and implement prevention programs that address bullying, cyber-bullying, conflict resolution, suicide, gang participation and internet safety to name a few.

What is your school police department doing? It is up to each school police department to show the public the value they provide to their schools, students, faculty, staff, administrators, and communities other than being a highly trained officer with a gun. Those departments must engage with those who do not see their value and change the narrative.

Guns in Schools: After the Summit

Today I had the opportunity to attend a town hall summit on the safety of our children, with an emphasis on guns in our schools.

There were panelists representing Clayton County Public Schools, Fayette County Public Schools, Georgia State University, McIntosh Trail Mental Health Counseling Center and Public Policy Development of the Southeast Region.

As the number of incidents involving violence in our schools continues to increase some groups feel one viable solution is to arm teachers. I was very pleased to hear each panelist rebuke this idea. The preservation of life in an active shooter incident is paramount and depends on a tactical law enforcement response that allows officers to locate and neutralize the perpetrator expeditiously.  A response that requires officers to differentiate armed faculty and staff from perpetrators would hamper and delay the expediency of neutralizing a perpetrator.

The cost of properly and consistently training faculty and staff in firearms proficiency and retention would take away valuable time that could be used to gain more educational training centered around pedagogy.  All in all, I believe we hire teachers to teach and not to police our schools.  Storage and retention of weapons would also be an issue. Where would the weapon be stored? Would it be locked away? If so who would have a key? What would the policy be for removing the firearm?  We should all be focused on keeping guns out of schools unless they are being maintained by a trained law enforcement officer. I think that is the best way to maintain the safety and security of our schools.

Social media plays a significant role in our children’s lives. They wake up on their phones, they travel throughout the day on their phones and they go to sleep on their phones. Instagram and Snapchat are the most used social media applications and they have a huge influence on our children. These platforms have exacerbated bullying and caused children to feel ostracised, inferior, insignificant and invaluable.  Chats at the dinner table have been replaced by tweets and posts on various platforms. Parents believe they are keeping up with their children on social media by friending are sometimes surprised to find they have multiple accounts on the same platform.  I encourage parents to have an open dialogue with their children about the dangers of social media.  Children will often have disagreements and these disagreements are escalated into threats of violence due to comments made on social media. Teaching our children how to resolve conflicts by talking rather than posting can be beneficial in deterring violence in schools.

Violence is all around us. It the responsibility of each and every one of us to help deter it.  Parents, please become involved in your child’s school before the teacher calls about an issue. Be proactive! Join your local PTSA and give your time, talents or dollars to help make our students the best they can be.  It truly takes a village!

Thank you Fayette County NAACP for sponsoring this town hall!

A Letter to Both Sides

To my fellow citizens and those who aspire to be citizens of this wonderful country. Yes, Black lives do matter and SHOULD matter to all, not because of the color of our skin but because we are human and in the eyes of God, equal! We are all human and there should be a mutual respect for all regardless of differences of opinion. Black lives matter no matter who is responsible for taking that life. To only protest and show disgust when a life is taken by a member of law enforcement and ignore all the other lives lost due to insignificant reasons is a tragedy in itself. We have to learn to communicate with each other a little better and show a mutual respect for all, in addition to learning to not sweat the little things. So what, that you don’t like the shoes I wear, the person I date, the job I have, how I looked at you, LET IT GO!

All lives have to matter! We should not view all police officers or every police/citizen encounter in the same light. Each incident should be analyzed on its own merit. The police are necessary to maintain order and enforce the laws of the land. There are flaws that can be addressed by community calm, collective and organized community involvement. Those laws ELECTED officials drafted and voted for. We should not judge an entire law enforcement community by the actions of a few. There are great officers serving the citizens of our communities. Understanding the job these officers do, being able to understand what is expected, being able to communicate effectively and listening is paramount in a citizen police interaction.

To my fellow law enforcement personnel. We took an oath to protect and serve the public, the entire public, not just the ones we like or the ones we understand, but everyone. Let’s put any biases away and continue to uphold the laws we vowed to uphold, with honesty, integrity, and zeal. The country needs us whether they realize it or not. We have come to a difficult hurdle with public perception, with increased deliberate training in effective communication, an increased understanding of criminal procedure and best practices in addition to increased training in de-escalation tactics we can do our part in eliminating the gap in police-citizen relations. Let’s continue to work hard for the citizens, I mean isn’t that why we got into this business? There are great citizens who comprise the communities we serve, don’t judge entire communities based on the actions of a few. I have listened to “community leaders”, attended numerous forums and seen only blame. Let’s agree there is a problem and move towards solutions.

This letter is not meant to call out, degrade, accuse or address any particular incident but simply in my heart to express it. Education knowledge and understanding is the key!

Written by B.L. Brown Author of The Justice Academy What You Should Know

Love Affair with the Criminal Justice System

I was reading an article by Feyishola Apena that talked about how status is related to minority juvenile males criminality. The survey was not a surprise but a confirmation of the impact that social status has on youth. You would think a child is too young to think about social status but they aren’t. Your status is measured by everything you do from your clothes to how you travel getting from place to place. Those material things that mean so much to some. My parents would refer to this as “keeping up with the Joneses”. Now I never met the Joneses in person but they had it all. They were rich beyond my imagination because every time I asked why we didn’t have something I was told to stop trying to keep up with the Joneses.

According to the article, it is important to strive for a positive identity in society; however a minority juvenile has a difficult time attaining this positive identity because of a sense of an inferior position they may generally hold in society, compared to the majority (Apena, 2007). Acquiring material things that might, on the outside create a positive identity, an image that says “I belong” becomes a goal that will be attained by any means necessary. In essence “Keeping up with the Joneses” no matter how it happens.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” is exactly what gets some juveniles in trouble with the law. They witness an introduction to the criminal justice system, a partner that can latch on and never let go. Think of the criminal justice system as that ex that won’t stop calling, won’t stop driving by, they just hang around, they want to be everywhere you are, a nuisance. For some, there is a strange love affair with the criminal justice system. As an adult you can tell a young person, (I say young person because they are not always kids), the right thing to do, the consequences of doing the wrong thing and they just don’t get it. The advice is dismissed, ignored put in a drawer for later. This failure and generally a smart mouth usually brings that ex running, that good old criminal justice system comes running to meet you.

The need to belong, need to wear the freshest clothes, the latest shoes, a phone with the newest technology and drive a high dollar car. The need to have these things without the means to attain them brings that justice system knocking. The pressure one feels to have those things RIGHT NOW leaves them with one alternative, TAKE IT. So they rob and steal for it, but wait there is someone who is unwilling to just let their stuff go, so you then have to fight for it. They are losing the fight so they shoot the property owner and now they are a thief, robber, assaulter, and a murderer. All because they wanted the freshest clothes, the latest shoes, a phone with the newest technology or to drive a high dollar car. As a parent you will have no idea of this need, they probably won’t ask you because they already know either you can’t afford to give it to them or you won’t allow them to have it. So they get it how they can because they WANT IT NOW and they BELIEVE they are ENTITLED to it.

Parents hold your children accountable at home, teach them consequences for their actions and allow them to fail when they are young so they can work harder, attain their goal and KNOW what it is to SUCCEED.

More importantly, they will not begin a love affair with the criminal justice system!



Integrity, I have often used this word and have taken the definition as simply doing what is right when there is no one looking. Although I believe I have this grasp on the word integrity I have never really looked it up in the dictionary, until today. Integrity defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is:

1.   firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values: incorruptibility An analysis: Firm adherence- strong standing, never wavering; To a code of especially moral or artistic values-The right thing in that particular situation. The dictionary also pairs integrity with incorruptibility, being very honest unable to be corrupt.

2.   an unimpaired condition: soundness Analysis: Using a sound mind when making decisions

3.   the quality or state of being complete or undivided: completeness Analysis: having all the necessary tools to arrive at a thought provoked decision, prepared, having no limitations

The job of a law enforcement officer is a very fluid job. Although there is training, it is impossible to train for every situation. It is in those situations that each law enforcement officer reaches into their bag of tools and pull out INTEGRITY.

Times have changed in the world we live in. For those of us who have been on the job for 15 years or more, there have been many changes and we must adapt to those changes. Two very significant changes that we must adapt to are technological changes and open/concealed carry laws.

Technology has been a thorn in the sides of some law enforcement, whether it is a new reporting writing system or the camera phone. We have to adapt. That definition of integrity that I used in the past is no longer relevant because there is always someone watching. Even if you don’t believe there is you should always carry yourself and perform your duties as if there is someone watching. We live in a time now where there are cameras everywhere, people out making vacation videos, storefront surveillance cameras, even some cities have invested in surveillance cameras in public areas to deter crime. These cameras that had intentions other than to watch the actions of law enforcement have been the catalyst to bring the darkness of “policing” to the light. Those behaviors that were only shared between those within the “thin blue line” are now out for everyone to see.

Guns, guns, guns, guns, guns. I can remember watching western movies with my Father, everyone had a gun, even some of the ladies had guns. There would be gunfights in the bars, on the street. People were shot just for the way they looked at someone. Even though that was television, there is a direct correlation between the behavior then and the behavior now. The only thing different then compared to now is the size of the jails. The law enforcement branch, although led by a Sheriff or Marshall, had the authority to deputize a whole town if needed, so law enforcement always had the manpower. Today almost as many people have guns as they have home computers. Because of the change in laws to allow open carry or concealed carry, depending on your state law, law enforcement cannot continue to use the same standards to address people. It has become far more dangerous because you “really” should assume everyone has a gun and has the opportunity and ability to use it. BUT does that mean your life is in jeopardy? I know the old OAJ is not politically or judicially correct today but it is still a valid question. Communication is the key. We have to talk to people.

Now there is a decision to make do you continue to believe nobody is looking and act without integrity or do you do the right thing when you believe nobody is watching?

If you aren’t sure what OAJ is get the book.


integrity. 2011. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved August 23, 2016, from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/integrity


In the News

A Typical Day of News Coverage

Welcome to Channel 6 News at noon… Today’s top story: an unarmed black man was fatally shot by police. Neither the victim or officer has been identified. The officer has reportedly been placed on administrative leave, with pay. Protesters have assembled peacefully at the local justice center.

Welcome to Channel 6 News at 6:00 p.m.…Today’s top story: an unidentified black man was fatally shot by police. A weapon was located at the scene. The shooting is currently under investigation and the officer has been placed on administrative leave, with pay. A small group of protesters has gathered in the city square. Police are responding, in riot gear to reports of looting and vandalism in the city square.

Has police use of deadly force created a disparate impact on the African American Community? Are African Americans being unfairly targeted by law enforcement? Is the propensity to use deadly force greater when the target is an African American more often than when the target is Caucasian? Where is the line drawn between the necessity of public safety and the use of force against African Americans? What is the purpose of protesting police involved shootings? How do local elections impact police and the use of deadly force?

In the past, I can remember telling people, especially friends, do not be afraid of the police if you have done nothing wrong. Be respectful and follow their directions and you will be fine, is what I said. That same advice is useful, but it is not necessarily the “gospel,” today. African American citizens are taken aback as media outlets repeatedly report stories about police-involved shootings and the deaths of black people throughout the country.

The death of Eric Garner at the hands of  New York City Police Officers has occurred over and over again. Similar story, in that a black person was killed by a member of law enforcement. These deaths, although on the surface, appear to be the same old song; however as details are released there are facets of each case that cause them to vary in their differences. Regardless of the differences in these cases, they have all resulted in three similarities; death of a loved one, substantial civil suit settlements paid by taxpayers and lack of criminal prosecution of involved officers.

Protesters have marched, vandalized property, retaliated against police officers, refused service to police officers, all in the name of JUSTICE. But what have these actions really accomplished? Justice, that elusive result we often call for, but what is it really? Dictionary.com defines “justice” as administering what is just by law and “the administering of a deserved punishment or reward.” The justice we call for, in a nutshell, is simply punishment for the crime committed against us or the people we love. We want criminals, whether those criminals wear a badge or not, to be identified and prosecuted. When a life is lost, it not only impacts the victim and their family, but it impacts the offender and their family, in addition to the neighborhood the crime occurred in.

The thought pattern of some of my closest friends has moved past whether they will encounter a police officer, they now worry if they will survive an encounter with police. What do I do now, they ask. How can a man be shot for doing what he was instructed to do? He was instructed to get his identification, he reached for his wallet and the police officer shot him.

The Justice Department report on Ferguson Police Department has shed light on the policies and practices that impact the treatment of African American citizens day after day. The importance of revenue generation in addition to diminishing the validity of complaints of inappropriate behavior of officers has exacerbated the distrust of African American citizens in Ferguson. Although citizens in African American communities have complained about these injustices repeatedly, this eye-opening report is not evidence of an isolated incident of policy gone wrong. Similar inadequacies were discovered after a requested Department of Justice investigation by the Baltimore, Maryland Police Department. As with any situation, the first step is to admit there is a problem. The problems have been identified, the move to implement solutions must now be swift.

The job of a police officer remains a dangerous one. There has to be an understanding by the community of what is expected when encountered by police, but just as important, police officers must learn to adapt to fluid situations and attempt to de-escalate those situations, rather than make a use of force the first option. It should be understood that each situation in which force is applied is not the same and therefore the response by police should not be expected to be the same. Just as a nation, we should employ diplomacy prior to declaring war. Officers should attempt diplomacy prior to utilizing force when the opportunity presents itself. Just because you can, doesn’t always mean you should.