Combating the danger of guns with knowledge

By By Justin Phillips / American Press

During the Family & Youth Festival on Saturday at the Lake Charles Civic Center, dozens of children were gathered around a

trailer near the back of the civic center.

Leaning against the trailer, they peered through a thick window to see the remnants of a few blown-apart watermelons. The

trailer was actually a ballistics shoot tank, the window was made of bulletproof glass and the destroyed watermelons were

torn apart by a .357-caliber handgun.

It was all part of a demonstration for gun safety conducted by the Louisiana City Marshals and City Constables Association

in partnership with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and a few other law enforcement organizations across the state.

Ward 3 Marshal Joey Alcede said the demonstration is a necessity these days because, to put it plainly, times have changed.

“I remember when I was younger, a toy gun was carved out of wood and you knew it was fake. There was generally a greater respect

for firearms” Alcede said. “Now, with the video games and things that are out, it seems like the danger of guns has become

fictionalized.”

Louisiana has the second-highest rate

of gun deaths in the nation. In a state where gun ownership is common,

whether for recreational

use or personal protection, teaching children how to behave around

firearms has become important.

“We do this assessment where we show a

gun and we ask the kids if the weapon is real or fake. Probably half of

them get it

right, but half isn’t good at all,” Alcede said. “Even if they are

able to tell if the gun is real of fake, they still can’t

tell if it’s loaded or not.”

The demonstration began with John

Lawton, chief of operations from the Baton Rouge Constable’s Office,

asking the crowd to

identify whether the guns he displayed were real or fake. Most of

the dozen or so kids watching couldn’t tell the difference,

emphasizing Alcede’s point. After putting the firearms away,

Lawton talked to the crowd about how dangerous they can be.

“You should realize that when a bullet hits something, it destroys it,” Lawton told the crowd. “When you see a gun, don’t

touch it. Treat it like it’s loaded and get an adult. In Louisiana, we’re losing two kids your age each month.”

The demonstration ended with Lawton using a wire to remotely fire a .357-caliber handgun inside of the ballistics tank at

the watermelon sitting at the other end. The watermelon exploded.

Shonna Lewis, a Lake Charles native, was at the festival with 10-year-old son Sean. As a gun owner, Lewis said she and her

son both are comfortable around firearms. In fact, she said she recently completed a concealed-weapons course.

“We own several guns at home, and we actually just bought Sean a BB gun,” Lewis said. “We always talk about gun safety because

even though they may be there for safety, they’re not always safe.”

Lewis’ son, Sean, said the demonstration was fun to watch, but that he already knew the dangers of firearms. “We talk about

it at home, how to be safe around them,” he said.

Jill Lavergne was one of the few at the

demonstration who didn’t own a gun and didn’t grow up around them. The

Lake Charles

native was looking to grab some information for one of her four

sons, who she said was beginning to get interested in hunting

and needed to learn some more about gun safety.

While looking for a gun lock — free ones were being given away at the booth — Lavergne said it might take a little while for

her to get adjusted to her son handling guns down the road.

“I’m going to grow to be comfortable with all of this, eventually,” she said. “I have him involved in the scouts, and we’re

going to be taking some gun safety classes. He’s just the one who’s been showing the most interest out of all of the boys,

so we want to make sure we’re safe about everything.”