A Louisville gun safety activist is encouraging gun owners to use gun locks and safely store their guns, an issue he’s taken all the more seriously since his grandson was fatally shot in January 2016.
Luther Brown, a retired construction worker and avid church goer, found his calling advocating gun safety after his neighbor was killed and her 2-year-old daughter severely wounded and blinded in one eye from a shooting in May 2006, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.
His research into gun violence in Louisville led him to start the nonprofit educational program Little Hands Little Feet, which warns children to stay away from guns and urges adult gun owners to use gun locks and practice safe gun storage in order to prevent accidental shootings.
Brown has given away more than 500 gun locks at events around the West Louisville community where he resides, and hopes to get a gun lock in every house.
“Not every dope dealer is gonna want to use a gun lock,” Brown said. “But the mamas of the dope dealers sometimes insist on it. They know there are children in the house; they know how children are curious. It’s the mamas who come back to me sometimes and ask for a lock. If we can get locks on even a few of the guns out there, then you know what? At least that’s something.”
Brown knows all too well what it’s like for a family member to be killed in an accidental shooting. On Jan. 9, 2016, his 8-year-old grandson Andre O’Neal Jr. was accidentally shot and killed at a family barbecue.
The man responsible for the shooting, 21-year-old Elgin Anders, allegedly dropped the gun by accident when it fired and struck the child.
“We was grilling and everything. I came out to the grill. I had barbecue sauce on my fingers. I licked the sauce off my fingers. It just slipped right out of my fingers,” Anders told WDRB-TV.
Anders has been charged with reckless homicide and the case is still ongoing. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison, but Brown doubts Anders will stay in prison for even that long.
“That man might go to prison for a year for killing Baby Dre,” he said.
“The problem is, we don’t take these deaths seriously. People leave their guns out, bam, a child is dead, but it’s just an accident. People drop their guns, bam, a child is dead, but it’s just an accident. You were careless and now a child is dead, but hey, we won’t charge you with a crime, we think you’ve suffered enough. If we charge you with anything, maybe you get a year.”
After his grandson’s death, Brown continued his gun safety programs, and was even invited to attend the funeral of another boy who had been shot and killed by his 11-year-old brother when playing with a loaded handgun left unlocked in their home.
At the funeral, Brown handed out gun locks and gun safety pamphlets, a day he said he would take with him to his grave.
While Brown has vowed to keep up his efforts in Louisville, other gun safety programs are also trying to make a difference around the country.
One such program — Project ChildSafe, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation — recently teamed up with the San Angelo Police Department in Texas to raise awareness about safe gun ownership in the community.
According to an SAPD news release, free gun locks and safety kits will be available for pickup at Police Headquarters from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.