BANGOR, Maine — Even one accidental death from a firearm left unattended or accidentally discharged is one too many, Steve Sanetti, president and CEO of the National Sports Shooting Foundation, said Sunday at a firearms safety event held at the Bangor Mall.
“It’s a horrible tragedy every time it happens and it’s preventable,” he said at the mall’s center court, where Project ChildSafe gun locks and gun safety information were given away for free.
Project ChildSafe, the nation’s largest firearms safety education program, stresses that gun safety begins in the home, the group’s website states.
“Accidents [nationwide] have dropped dramatically even though gun sales have gone up,” Sanetti said. “Maine mirrors that. You should be proud.”
Accidental deaths in the state have dropped, he said, adding that based on National Safety Council data from 2012, “there were 672 fatal accidents in Maine and only one was a gun fatality,” Sanetti said.
“That one is too many,” he said, stressing a gun lock would have prevented the fatal accident.
Bangor City Council chairman Nelson Durgin said that the gun locks do more than prevent unintentional discharges.
“It helps prevent firearms from being stolen,” the mayor said.
Bangor has worked with the national group for years, so “hundreds of these locks have already been distributed in the area,” Durgin said.
Bangor police Chief Mark Hathaway, who shot himself in the left hand in June while cleaning his new duty weapon, said Friday that he would be out of town for the event, but wanted to remind people that even those with training make mistakes.
“I talk about it now at every opportunity wherever I am,” Hathaway said. “I want everyone to know what I did and to always remember it so it never happens to them. I have received a lot of support and a lot of criticism. I appreciate the support and certainly deserve the criticism.”
Hathway, a 25-year veteran officer who was selected as the city’s chief in April, suffered an injury to his hand near his left pinky. He was ordered to undergo additional gun safety training and had his hand in a cast from the elbow down while it healed.
National Sports Shooting Foundation has more than 8,000 members, which include manufacturers, distributors, firearms retailers, shooting ranges, sportsmen’s organizations and publishers, the group’s website states. Since 2003, Project ChildSafe has distributed more than 36 million safety kits to gun owners in all 50 states and five U.S. territories, the website says.
Orono resident Laura Winters and four of her children were at the mall and decided to stop by the event.
“I was so happy because he likes guns,” she said, pointing to her son, Zoya. “He’s 16.”
Zoya Winters said he owns an antique single-shot rifle that he’s never shot, but hopes to someday and wanted to stop by the event to learn about gun safety.
His mom said she’s glad he did.
Free gun locks are available at the police department for those who could not make it to the Bangor Mall event, Bangor police Officer Jason McAmbly, a community relations officer for the department, told attendees.
“Bangor Police Department gives out gun locks all the time,” the officer said. “There is no form [to fill out]. You can just have it.”
The gun locks work on both handguns and rifles, and require the firearms to be empty of ammunition to work.
“An empty gun is a completely safe gun,” McAmbly said. “If it’s not being used, it should be locked up. It’s the law.”