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Classes teach kids to stay safe around guns
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Officer Stewart Phillips with the Clearwater Police Department teaches a class of third-graders about gun safety on Feb. 2 at McMullen Booth Elementary.
CLEARWATER – When it comes to children, gun safety is not a topic to take lightly.

And while gun-related deaths in children age 19 and younger have fallen in recent years, eight kids will die each day in the United States as a result of a firearm.

That’s why More Health, a leading health and education advocacy group, and the Clearwater Police Department have joined forces in an effort to teach local children about firearm safety.

Community Liaison Officer Stewart Phillips and More Health instructor Maureen Burke hosted a series of classes Feb. 2 at McMullen Booth Elementary.

The program targets local third graders and is written specifically for the age group.

“At this age, this is when children become curious about guns,” said Burke. “They are old enough to know what can happen as a result of picking up a firearm.

“They are smart enough to make those choices intellectually,” Burke continued. “This particular lesson is specifically written for the third-grade level.”

The 45-minute presentation followed an in-class video students watched the week prior and utilized visual aids, including X-rays from gunshot victims, a miniature skeleton, and a case displaying a variety of firearms that were both real and fake.

Telling the difference between real and fake weapons is not always easy, Phillips told the students, which is why children should never touch a gun and to always seek the help of an adult immediately.

“You always treat a gun as if it is real,” Phillips said.

That message struck home with 9-year-old Henry Blixt.

“If you see a gun, just stop and go tell an adult so you don’t get hurt,” he said following the class.

Eight-year-old Virginia Holm was equally impressed with the lesson.

“I learned how fast a bullet can go and how badly it can damage your body,” Holm said. “Don’t touch a gun and run go get help.”

Burke said she is glad the students seem to understand the importance of gun safety.

“It’s an important lesson,” Burke said. “I believe this lesson saves lives. “I know it does.”

If you have a gun in your home, Phillips recommends following the guidelines set forth by Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg:

• Take the ammunition out of the gun.
• Lock the gun and keep it out of reach of kids. Hiding the gun is not enough.
• Lock the ammunition and store it apart from the gun.
• Store the keys for the gun and the ammunition in a different area from where you store household keys. Keep the keys out of reach of children.
• Lock up gun cleaning supplies, which are often poisonous.
• When handling or cleaning a gun, adults should never leave the gun unattended.

All Children’s recommends teaching children to follow simple rules when they come in contact with a gun:

• Stop what they’re doing.
• Do not touch the gun.
• Leave the area where the gun is.
• Tell an adult right away.
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