Tragedy reared its ugly head recently in Oconee County with the untimely death of a 15-year-old Athens boy due to what appears to be an accidental shooting with a pellet gun. For obvious reasons, I can’t go into the details of the incident at this point and in this setting, but there are two key themes from this incident that I can discuss, and they are organ donation and firearms safety.
According to Pam Duke of Athens Regional Medical Center, Georgians can indicate on their driver’s license their wishes to be an organ donor. This is considered “first person consent." If a person has not indicated their affirmative preference on their license, the decision will fall to their next of kin or a person with power of attorney to make such decisions. Your decision is something that you should discuss with your family so that your will is carried out. If you would like more information on organ donation, there are numerous non-profit organizations that are part of the process such as LifeLink of Georgia, the Georgia Transplant Foundation, and Donate Life of Georgia. Staff from the respective hospital will discuss medical suitability with your family at the appropriate time.
Now on to a discussion of firearm safety, and while BB guns and air rifles don’t fit some of the legal definitions of a firearm for the purposes of sales and transfers, the same safety rules apply to their use. Literature on the subject can be found in many places and in many forms, but legendary firearms instructor Lieutenant Colonel Jeff Cooper developed four basic rules of firearm safety that are applicable whether shooting a spring-loaded BB gun, pistol, shotgun, or rifle. They are:
- Treat every gun as if it were loaded.
- Never let the muzzle cover anything you are not willing to destroy.
- Keep your finger off of the trigger until your sights are on the target.
- Identify your target and know what is behind it.
Additional safety literature is provided by the National Sport Shooting Foundation, and Ruger, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) offers numerous safety programs. The owner’s manual that comes with the firearm will have information on the proper loading and unloading techniques as well as storage procedures. Should you not be able to locate the owner’s manual, most of the manufactures make them available for download from their respective web pages. Furthermore, groups such as the Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H offer shooting programs.
For younger children, the NRA offers the Eddie Eagle program that teaches children to not handle or play with firearms should they find them and to immediately bring them to the attention of an adult.
From time to time, the Sheriff’s Office has offered firearms safety classes for adults. We hope to continue to offers these classes, and we are looking into some options for teaching to a younger audience. Several deputies have indicated that they would be willing to participate. If there are volunteers within the community that would like to get involved in such activities, the NRA offers several valuable instructor programs.
In closing, I urge you to make a decision regarding organ donation and to express your wishes to your family. Even if you have made the decision to not own firearms, if you have small children or teenagers, it is a good idea to discuss the issue with them so that they will know what to do should they encounter a firearm.