JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After the fourth accidental shooting of a child in Jacksonville since February, one gun store will offer free gun locks to anyone who needs them until May 27.
The latest happened Wednesday afternoon, when a 2-year-old boy accidentally shot himself in a home in the Jacksonville Heights South neighborhood, according to family.
Elijah Datson, who will turn 3 next month, underwent surgery at UF Health Jacksonville, and was doing better Thursday, family members said.
Relatives said the toddler, who was in the car of a babysitter at the time, likely thought he was playing with one of his toy guns when he shot himself. Police are still investigating who owns the gun and where the boy got it.
A Department of Children and Families spokesperson told News4Jax on Thursday, they're "working closely with law enforcement. In these types of cases, we want to find out if there are any other safety concerns in the home. We encourage all parents to watch their children closely."
According to experts, gun locks and a gun safe are good ways to prevent children from injuring themselves. For anyone with children in their home, it is the law to lock up guns.
Z. Farhat, a manager at Green Acres Sporting Goods on Normandy Boulevard, said they're huge on gun safety.
"You can't (put a price on a life)," Farhat told News4Jax on Thursday. "There's no excuse for not having your guns locked up. People need to take guns seriously and remember kids, especially at that toddle age, they're very, very curious. They get into stuff and they can surprise you every day, so you want to take every precaution."
From safes to locks, Farhat said, there are so many options on the market. He added big gun safes are especially effective.
"We've got these mini vaults here. You can mount them right next to the bedside," Farhat explained. "Most of them like these are in the $30-$40 range. They're really not bad."
But if you're on a budget, there are trigger locks. Farhat said you can buy trigger or cable locks for as little as $7, but just make sure to keep the keys of the reach of children.
Because there's been multiple accidental shootings of children recently, Farhat said, Green Acres -- located at 8774 Normandy Blvd., Jacksonville -- will be giving locks away free of charge until May 27.
Green Acres is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Experts with Safe Kids Northeast Florida also offered gun safety tips for families:
- Talk to your kids. Explain how a gun your kids might see on television or in a video game is different from a gun in real life. Teach kids not to touch a gun and to immediately tell an adult if they see one.
- Talk to relatives and friends who your kids may visit. Have a conversation with other family members and the parents of your children’s friends about safe gun storage practices.
- Parents may also dispose of guns they don't need. If parents decide that they no longer need to have a gun in the home, consult with community law enforcement on how to dispose of it in a safe way.
Parents can also visit the Project ChildSafe website to learn more about firearm safety.