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Erica Gibson’s tragic death a wake-up call for gun owners

Grieving family members want justice.

Family and community members gathered for a memorial and balloon release for 12-year-old Erica Gibson on Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Erica was shot and killed in Hazel Crest last weekend.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

I was never at ease with my children visiting their friends’ homes.

I blame my mother.

The worst thing we could do in her eyes was to play at a girlfriend’s house. God forbid we should confess to eating something.

So you can imagine how cautious I am when it comes to my 13-year-old granddaughter. I want to hear every detail about the friend’s family that I can squeeze out of her mother.

Still, there’s one question I’ve never thought to ask until now.

“Is there a gun in the home?”

The tragic gun death of 12-year-old Erica Gibson should be a wake-up call for every parent — especially gun owners.

“We are heartbroken,” Erica’s aunt, Tywauna McDonald, told me in a phone interview.

“I don’t want any other parent to go through what we have to go through,” she said.

Erica stayed at a friend’s house in South Suburban Hazel Crest on Saturday when the tragic shooting accident occurred. Details are sketchy because no charges have been filed, and minors are involved.

Because a firearm fell into the wrong hands, Erica’s promising young life was snuffed out.

“It could have been avoided by locking the gun up. There is no way a 14-year-old should have access,” said the grieving aunt.

Here are some shocking stats, compiled by the American Academy of Pediatrics, about children killed in this country by firearms:

“There were at least 241 unintended shootings by children in 2019, causing more than 100 deaths and nearly 150 injuries;

“About one-third of the homes with children in the U.S. have a gun, and many are stored loaded and/or unlocked;

“More than a third of all unintentional shootings of children take place in the homes of their friends, neighbors or relatives.”

Given the times we live in and the violence many of us have witnessed, it’s pointless to ask people to give up their guns.

But can’t we at least lock them up?

Child advocates urge parents to make sure all guns in the home are locked and unloaded, with ammunition locked separately.

And “Illinois law prohibits any person from storing or leaving his or her firearm unlocked and accessible to a minor under the age of 14.”

Besides grieving the loss of her niece, McDonald is concerned about how law enforcement is handling this homicide.

Police Chief Mitchell Davis called Erica’s death a “tragic accident involving children playing with a gun,” the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

While a spokesman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office said “details of the shooting had not been ‘formally presented’ to the office on whether charges should be filed,” according to the Sun-Times.

”I don’t think it’s been handled correctly. I think they really should make the parents be accountable for it,” McDonald said.

“That gun should have been locked up. I don’t think (law enforcement) is pursuing it like they should. They are slow in pursuing justice,” she said.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Cook County state’s attorney’s office did not confirm that charges have not been filed in this case.

For those of you who still think it’s enough to hide your gun, think about how many hiding places you were able to uncover when your parents weren’t around.

Erica Gibson’s death is a tragedy that would not have happened had adults followed some simple gun rules.

Sophie Sherry, a CST Wire Reporter, contributed to this column.