By Kathleen Berger
St. Louis, MO (KSDK) - The number of accidental shootings involving kids playing with guns in the last couple of weeks is alarming. It's a trend St. Louis Children's Hospital says has been on the rise in recent years.
The hospital tracks cases of gun violence; for children under the age of 12, they're seeing several more cases each year, mostly kids playing with guns. It's a trend gun advocates say can be fixed by teaching kids about guns.
Eighteen-year-old Damon Oglesby has been shooting guns for years, experienced with handguns and rifles. It all started when he was four-years-old.
"I knocked it over trying to touch it and play with it," said Oglesby.
And the lesson from his dad, he'll never forget.
"'Hey, don't touch that, that's dangerous, that can really hurt you or kill you,'" said Oglesby, repeating his father's warning.
That's why the Belleville Indoor Shooting Range has gun safety classes for children, pre-K through third grade. Children are taught: if you see a gun, don't touch it. Leave the area and tell an adult. When kids are six years of age on up, there's a first steps class, teaching kids how to properly handle a gun, starting with a rifle.
"Treat every gun like it's loaded, never point your gun at anything you don't intend to shoot, keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to shoot the gun," said training coordinator John Correll, Belleville Indoor Shooting Range.
Children's Hospital Trauma Nurse Mary Alice McCubbins says training kids on guns is not the answer.
"The American Academy of Pediatrics policy on firearm injury consistently says the only way to protect your child from a gunshot injury is not to have a gun in your home," McCubbins said.
At least a dozen shooting victims a year coming through Children's emergency room are kids under the age of 12 playing with loaded guns. McCubbins shows us x-ray after x-ray of bullet wounds doctors were able to repair. Some never get that chance. Damon knows that all too well, a lesson he learned in 3rd grade.
"I did have one friend get hurt. Him and his brother were playing with a gun and it actually went off and it killed him," said Damon Oglesby.
But Damon never stopped learning about proper gun handling, he was firing rifles then. When he turned 13, he learned to fire handguns.
If you have a gun in the home and need a lock, St. Louis Children's Hospital gives away gun locks for free. The St. Louis Police Department is giving them away too. Just go to police headquarters at 1200 Clark Avenue.