The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

December 16, 2012

Deadly trend with firearms | Accidental shootings plague Pennsylvania

JOHNSTOWN — There have been far too many gunshots echoing across Pennsylvania recently that have nothing to do with hunting season.

We have never advocated gun control – and we aren’t about to start now – but we are alarmed at the number of accidental shootings that seem to have happened recently. This has nothing to do with the horrific and premeditated shootings in Oregon and Connecticut within the past week.

Patrick Buchnowski reported earlier this month on the heartbreaking tale of Robert W. Duda, who accidentally shot his 14-year-old son, Bryan. Duda was cleaning his .380-caliber handgun in his Somerset County home when his son began joking.

“Shoot me, Dad. Shoot me,” Bryan said, according to court documents.

Duda, believing that the gun was not loaded, pointed the gun at him and pulled the trigger.

The devastating effect of that instant will last a lifetime.

Bryan was struck in the right side and later died at Somerset Hospital.

His father’s life also has been changed forever. The court’s punishment pales in comparison to what he is going through.

The incident has changed his stance on firearms.

“I want no more to do with guns,” Duda told Somerset County President Judge John M. Cascio.

District Attorney Lisa Lazzari-Strasiser understood Duda’s anguish. But she also made a very important point about the responsibility that gun owners take.

“If you choose to handle firearms then you have to accept the consequences of negligent and reckless behavior,” she said. “You can never exercise enough care or safety when you have firearms present.”

That shooting happened more than a year ago, but Duda’s sentencing, along with a number of other accidental shootings are a troubling trend.

Consider:

-- A 5-year-old Philadelphia girl shot herself in the foot while playing with a gun on Tuesday.

-- Jude Hughes of Butler died after police believe the 21-year-old Butler County man accidentally shot himself Tuesday with a recently purchased gun.

-- Charges were dismissed Tuesday against 19-year-old David Brooks of Fayette County in the shooting of his 12-year-old brother. The boy refused to testify against Brooks, who police say accidentally shot him in the hand and abdomen.

-- Craig Allen Loughrey, a 7-year-old Mercer County boy, was killed on Dec. 8 when his father, Joseph V. Loughrey, accidentally shot him. The father had been trying to sell his gun and didn’t realize there still was a bullet in the chamber.

That’s a frightening number of stories about accidental shootings in a short period of time, especially since they could have been avoided.

We know that parents are often warned to use gun locks and other devices to make sure that children can’t accidentally discharge a weapon – and we agree with that stance – but in all but one of the cases mentioned above, it was an adult who did not properly handle a gun.

A loaded gun always has the potential to be a deadly weapon and should be treated accordingly. And all guns should be handled as if they are loaded.

Adults need to understand that as well as children.

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