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Pastor’s 2-Year-Old Son Unintentionally Shooting Himself in Church Parking Lot in Burke County Highlights Need for Secure Storage Legislation in North Carolina


BURKE COUNTY, N.C. – The North Carolina chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety’s grassroots network, released the following statement in response to a pastor’s two-year-old toddler unintentionally shooting himself in a church parking lot in Burke County. With details still emerging, witnesses report hearing a single shot fired inside a car in the parking lot. The toddler was airlifted to a Charlotte hospital Sunday with life-threatening injuries.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper recently took active measures against reckless acts of gun violence with the newly enacted statewide initiative, Secure All Firearms Effectively (S.A.F.E), which provides resources on best practices for firearm storage and safety. This program will promote safe and responsible firearm ownership in North Carolina, however, stronger legislation to require individuals to safely store firearms in automobiles can save more lives, with states including California, Connecticut, and Oregon having already done so.

“I don’t know how many times our generation needs to say ‘this isn’t normal,’ before lawmakers respond to our demands for change,” said Sam Mell, a student in Burke County and a volunteer with the North Carolina chapter of Students Demand Action. “We won’t be ignored, we won’t back down. It is long overdue that our lawmakers pass secure storage legislation in cars to save lives – gun violence is not inevitable.” 

Research shows secure storage practices play a vital role in reducing the risk of gun violence. Storing firearms securely protects children and adults by helping to prevent unintentional shootings, gun suicides, and gun thefts.

For decades North Carolina has benefited from relatively strong gun laws, however, the recent repeal of the handgun permit (SB41) by lawmakers could threaten this. In an average year, 1,588 people die by guns in North Carolina, and 3,530 more are wounded. Guns are the leading cause of death among children and teens in North Carolina. More information on gun violence in North Carolina is available here.

To speak to a North Carolina volunteer with Moms Demand Action, a volunteer with Students Demand Action, or a policy expert, please reach out to [email protected].