Home gun safety examined in wake of Delaware Co. tragedy - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Home gun safety examined in wake of Delaware Co. tragedy

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Childsafe gun locks can help promote firearm safety in the home, and many police departments offer these for free. Childsafe gun locks can help promote firearm safety in the home, and many police departments offer these for free.
DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

A Delaware County woman is dead, after a tragic incident involving a child and a handgun.

It happened in Dundee, just after 5 p.m. Thursday evening.

Delaware County Sheriff's deputies responding to a 911 call found 41-year-old Amy Hettinger inside a home with a gunshot wound. She later died of that injury.

Officials said a 10-year-old pulled the trigger and that the child was handling a loaded handgun belonging to another family member.

The Iowa State Medical Examiner said Friday autopsy results show this was an accident.

All of this, of course, serves to raise awareness about firearm safety in the home.

Dubuque Police Lieutenant Scott Baxter has seen the right and wrong way to store guns in a house.

"We see people storing weapons in nightstand drawers, unlocked, unsecured," Baxter said. "That's obviously very problematic."

He said educating kids about gun safety is one of the best tools to prevent tragic accidents.

"It's important to make sure they understand the dangers, make sure that it's not necessarily something to be afraid of, but it's also not a toy, not something to play with," he said. "In the same lines, if they find a weapon that's not secured, they need to get away from it and report it to a responsible adult."

One affordable safety option is a childsafe lock. Baxter said the Dubuque Police Department, as well as many police departments throughout Iowa, provide the locks for free.

"It disables the shotgun, temporarily, or the handgun or the rifle," he said. "It requires key access, and it's strong enough to prevent tampering from, like, a child or somebody who's unauthorized to use the weapon."

Safety brochures and online resources provide safety tips, such as talking with kids about the difference between toy guns and real guns.

"Talking about what they see on TV isn't really reality, compared with real life," Baxter said, "and that, with real firearms, it's a life-or-death situation. Once that bullet, that projectile leaves the gun, we can't take it back."

Another safety option is to buy a gun safe.

Although those may be expensive, Baxter said, "A couple hundred bucks, it pales in comparison to someone's safety, a child's safety, a loved one's safety, so it's definitely an investment worth exploring."

He said he recommends parents talk to their kids about gun safety sooner rather than too late.

"As soon as they're able to start accessing those weapons or try to access them, that's going to be the time you want to talk down to have a very candid conversation about it, make sure they understand the potential dangers," he said.

Baxter said even if a particular family doesn't own a gun, a child from that family may go to a friend's house where there is a gun, so education can help every kid.

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