After toddler finds guns and shoots self in Louisville, advocate hopes lawmakers take action on gun safety legislation

11/16/2017 05:06 PM

On Monday, a 3-year-old toddler accidently shot himself in the head after he found a loaded gun in his family’s car as his dad shopped for a used car in Louisville.

He’s not the only child who has accidentally shot himself after finding a firearm, and Luther Brown, executive officer of Board 4 Change and founder of the Little Hands Little Feet gun safety program, says he hopes such regrettable incidents will be a thing of the past.

Brown supports legislation pre-filed by Rep. Jim Wayne, D-Louisville, that would require trigger locks on guns when they’re stored. Under the legislation for the 2018 session, a gun owner would face a Class A misdemeanor if a minor get his or her hands on an unsecured firearm and shoots someone.

Brown, who lost his 8-year-old grandson Andre O’Neal Jr. after someone dropped a gun at a barbecue and it discharged and killed him, said owners of firearms who don’t take the proper safety precautions should face criminal charges if their guns harm others.

“Someone needs to be charged,” he told Pure Politics in an interview Thursday. “We have to stop allowing this gun to hurt children and we call it an accident. But when we talk about gun safety, gun safety has another measure. It doesn’t bother your Second Amendment (rights) or your rights to own guns, but it gives you accountability. It makes you want to use common sense.”

“If my baby don’t have their seatbelt on and I’m pulled over, I will get a ticket,” Brown continued. “I will get a ticket, but if I leave my gun open and your baby dies, you just walk away. Just walk away. No charges filed. Those are the words that I hate to hear over the news.”

Getting such a bill through the General Assembly will be a tough task, however.

In this year’s legislative session, Sen. Gerald Neal, D-Louisville, filed Senate Bill 28, which mirrors Wayne’s proposal for the 2018 session. That bill didn’t receive a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In a phone interview, Neal said his bill faced two major roadblocks this year: it was filed by a Democrat in a Republican-led legislature and it dealt with firearms.

“Of course, this is a gun safety deal and it’s not control in a traditional sense, so there should be no concern in that regard,” Neal said. “In fact, it’s common-sense legislation that should be undertaken, in my opinion. These kind of things sometimes take a backseat for the reasons I just indicated, not to mention that I believe the chairman at that time felt that what was on the books was adequate.”

Still, Neal said legislation like SB 28 might get a hearing in light of tragedies like the one that sent the 3-year-old Louisville toddler to the hospital in grave condition “and at least fully discuss and bring attention to this issue.”

Count Brown among those who will be advocating for the bill “until the breath leaves out of my body.”

“Because of my grandbaby, Baby Dre’s death, that’s when we started this process, and I’m going to fight this until the breath leaves my body,” he said.

Brown said the legislation wouldn’t just prevent violent injuries or deaths to curious toddlers who find guns, but could also prevent teens from taking guns from relatives and keep some domestic situations from turning deadly.

“If you have to take a moment to unlock that gun to think about what it is you’re getting ready to do versus grabbing that gun out of the drawer on the dresser and pulling the trigger and being sorry later on, those are the things that we have to think about when it comes to gun safety,” he said.

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