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Keeping children away from guns during Winter break

Each year in the United States, nearly 350 children ages 17 and under gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Each year in the United States, nearly 350 children ages 17 and under get their hands on a gun and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else.  This  according to Be Smart- a nationwide initiative to help parents be more responsible with their guns. 

Firearm-related injuries are among the five leading causes of death for people ages 1-64 in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

In 2019, there were 39,707 firearm-related deaths in the U.S. Six out of every 10 deaths were firearm suicides and more than three out of every 10 were firearm homicides.

RELATED: Midlands school districts partner with law enforcement to promote responsible gun ownership

A 13-year-old male was fatally shot Sunday night while handling a gun with a friend. The Columbia Police Department is investigating where the firearm came from and how the kids got their hands on it. 

These deaths are exactly what the owner and operator of Safe Family Defense LLC Joe Shahoud tries to prevent through his gun safety courses. Shahoud said securing your gun is key to preventing it from getting in the wrong hands.

“Honestly, you gotta keep them locked up,” said Shahoud. "Children are going to find them. You can not hide a firearm from a child."

RELATED: Nearly 40 guns turned in during gun take-back event in Columbia

Shahoud said a growing number of parents have come to him for proper gun training. 

"It's been hundreds of them, it's been hundreds, "Shahoud said. "Between folks taking the firearms safety and shooting fundamental classes, to the CWP classes, it’s in the hundreds."

Newberry County Sheriff Lee Foster said gun safety starts with education. 

“You need to educate the kids, no matter how old they are; about the positive aspects of owning a firearm and having a firearm, and also the dangers of owning and having a firearm,” said Sheriff Foster. 

RELATED: What penalties do students face for bringing weapons to school in SC?

Sheriff Foster also explains that if you own a firearm, everyone who lives in your home needs to know about it. He encourages all gun owners to have a secure safe, but for a more cost friendly option, use a gun lock. 

Free gun locks are available from local hospitals and almost all law enforcement agencies.

Parents who decide they don't want a firearm in their home anymore are encouraged to turn them in to their local police department, or sell them back to a gun store.

The city of Columbia Police Department offers free gun safety courses on Tuesday nights and Saturday mornings. 

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