A handful of accidental shootings in Wichita in the past few weeks has area law enforcement officials concerned.
There have been seven accidental shootings in Wichita through April 20, police Lt. James Espinoza said. That compares with 19 in all of 2013 and 24 last year.
Three shootings described as accidental proved deadly in the past couple of weeks:
▪ Rebecca Campbell, 32, died early on the morning of April 8 in her home on West 20th Street. Her husband told police he was removing his gun from its holster when it discharged. The bullet struck and killed Campbell in the living room of their home. No charges have been filed in the incident. The case remains under investigation, authorities said.
▪ Kenneth Richards III, 28, accidentally shot himself in the upper left thigh while in his car on the morning of April 20, police said. Richards lost control of his car as he tried to drive himself to the hospital and crashed in the 1900 block of North Tallyrand, near 21st and Rock Road. Richards died at the scene.
▪ In neighboring Haysville, Preston Mobley died March 1 after a gun being held by a friend discharged, authorities have said. Mobley, 21, was struck in the abdomen and died after being taken to a hospital. The shooting was determined to be accidental.
“Obviously, any time we have an accidental shooting, it’s a concern,” Wichita police Capt. Jeff Weible said. “We encourage people to practice good firearm safety.”
As of July 1, no training will be required for someone choosing to carry a concealed weapon, to holster a hidden gun or carry one in a purse or backpack. Some local law enforcement officials say they’re concerned that could lead to more shooting mishaps like those seen recently in and around Wichita.
“We would encourage anybody that is carrying a firearm to get some training,” Sedgwick County sheriff’s Lt. Lin Dehning said.
Gun owners need to know how to safely handle their gun “and also the legal ramifications of carrying and using that weapon,” he said. “You have to know what the law is.”
That includes knowing when you’re allowed to shoot – and when it’s not legal.
Haysville Police Chief Jeff Whitfield said he doesn’t think the new law will lead to more accidental shootings.
“We really haven’t seen a lot of that,” Whitfield said of accidental shootings. “Talking to other chiefs, I haven’t really heard that as a real big concern.”
But Wichita and Sedgwick County law enforcement officials don’t share that view.
“Any time we have an increase” in accidental shootings, “it’s obviously a concern,” Weible said.
It’s not a good idea to handle a gun while driving, sheriff’s Capt. David Mattingly said. Fumbling with a gun while distracted can lead to unintended gunfire.
Guns vary on whether and where there’s a safety switch, Mattingly said. But no matter what gun someone has, he said, “the finger – that’s your safety.”
People shouldn’t have their finger next to the trigger “unless you have made the conscious decision to fire,” Mattingly said.
At the law enforcement training academy, for instance, recruits are taught first and foremost about how to handle a gun safely before they learn how to fire it, Mattingly said.
“You can tell if someone has experience” handling a gun within a very short time, he said.