Officials: Gun owners need to be safe

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 23, 1999

The death of 13-year-old Cecilia Banks this weekend has local law enforcement officials wishing people were more careful with their firearms.

&uot;A gun owner needs to realize that these types of accidents can happen,&uot; said Natchez Police Chief Willie Huff.

Banks, of 430 Cranfield Road, died Sunday morning after a 12-gauge shotgun went off while she was getting into her father’s truck to play.

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Adams County Sheriff Tommy Ferrell said the shotgun was sitting on a homemade pegboard when Banks got in from the passenger side.

She was shot in the chest after she apparently pulled on the barrel of the loaded gun. The weapon discharged because the trigger was lined up with one of the pegs on the board, Ferrell said.

&uot;We try to warn the public of the dangers of firearms,&uot; Ferrell said. &uot;This is the time of the year that we see more accidents.&uot;

The sheriff’s department is awaiting test results in Banks’ death from the state crime lab.

State law allows gun owners to keep guns in their houses or vehicles. A vehicle is considered an extension of one’s house and anything in the house can also be kept in the vehicle, Ferrell said.

&uot;Even if it was loaded or unloaded, long gun, handgun – in Mississippi (this) has no basis,&uot; Ferrell said.

The law does not make Banks’ death any easier for local officials to deal with. &uot;People become complacent with firearms,&uot; Ferrell said. &uot;A firearm is a lethal weapon. An accident or mistake with a firearm is usually final.&uot;

Officials want to remind the public to practice safety with their handguns.

&uot;The absolute safest (gun) is one that’s on safe and is empty,&uot; Huff said. &uot;(Accidents are) preventable with just a little bit of education and training and always thinking it can happen.&uot;

Banks is the third child to be shot accidentally in Natchez this year. Eight-year-old La’Joshua White was accidentally shot June 5 by his brother, and a 9-year-old Natchez girl was shot by her 7-year-old brother on Aug. 28.