DeKalb Commissioner Ted Terry: ‘We’re taking action now’ to address gun safetyDeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry. Image provided to Decaturish
By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor
DeKalb County, GA — Julvonnia McDowell’s voice quivered as she described wanting to hear the voice of her son one more time, a sound she will never experience again. Her son, 14-year-old Jajuan McDowell was accidentally shot and killed with an unsecured firearm while visiting his family in Savannah in 2016.
McDowell’s son never attended high school, danced at the prom or walked across a stage for graduation.
“It left a gaping hole in my heart that asphalt cannot fill,” said McDowell, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action and member of Everytown Survivor Network. “As the holidays draw near, it is very, very important that gun owners … take the time to secure your firearms.”
McDowell spoke on Dec. 7 at a press conference sponsored by elected officials who are taking a stand on gun safety. An unsecured gun was used in the shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Mich., on Nov. 30. Four students were killed, and seven people were injured.
The month of November saw multiple accidental gun deaths of children in metro Atlanta. Victims include 14-year-old Kyra Scott who died when a ghost gun made by her 13-year-old brother was fired, 8-year-old Kayden Jones who was shot at an apartment complex, and 5-year-old Khalis Eberhart who was killed on Thanksgiving by her 3-year-old family member.
State Sen. Elena Parent filed Senate Bill 146 this year which would allow for the owner of a gun to be charged if a minor gained access to the gun that the owner failed to secure, with harsher penalties if the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious harm. She said her legislation has been blocked by Republicans at the General Assembly and the gun lobby.
In 2020, there were 22 firearm accidents in Georgia involving children, 11 of which were fatal. These accidents are not merely a statistic, Parent said.
“Children as young as 2 and as old as 17 have shot their siblings, friends, their parents, neighbors, classmates and thousands of times, themselves,” said Parent. “If we fail to act, unsecured firearms in the hands of children will continue to wreak havoc on families, communities and our kids.”
Jason Esteves, board of education chair of Atlanta Public Schools, announced a resolution to promote safe and responsible gun storage. The school board can’t pass gun legislation, Esteves said, but it can educate stakeholders that guns must be stored responsibly.
DeKalb County Commissioner Ted Terry is introducing legislation to require safe storage of firearms. The legislation states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to store a firearm in any place where the person know, or reasonably should know, that a minor, at-risk person or prohibited person may gain access to the firearm, and the minor, at-risk person or prohibited person obtains access to and discharges the firearm,” unless the firearm is secured.
Terry spoke with county commissioners and local leaders in Columbus, Macon, Savannah, Chatham, Athens, Clayton, Cobb, Gwinnett, Newton, Rockdale – all leaders who are interested in taking action in the absence of action at the state and federal level, he said.
“This is an opportunity for us to not only save children’s lives at home, to reduce gun violence and to reduce school shootings,” said Terry. “We’re not waiting. We’re taking action now.”
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