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Bartholomew County parents push for gun safety after alleged accidental shooting

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Posted at 1:08 PM, Dec 09, 2022

BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY— There's a renewed push in Bartholomew County for gun safety from police and parents.

The push comes after an 18-year-old in Hope, Indiana told police he accidentally shot his friend thinking he was using an airsoft gun last week.

The friend ultimately died from his injuries.

Now a group of parents is working to educate people about gun safety.

"It's preventable, it's tragic, it's life-shattering that people have lost their child, or (that) a child has shot somebody accidentally and then they have to grow up in the rest of their lives knowing that they have killed a loved one," said Julie Wagner.

Wagner is a representative from Columbus moms demand action, a group that is advocating for gun safety.

The program Wagner spoke to community members about Thursday was called "Be SMART." Its goal is to educate parents and others about gun safety.

"If you could save a child's life you really have a responsibility to do so," Wagner said.

Representatives with the Bartholomew County Sheriff's Office and Columbus Police Department also spoke about gun safety and its importance.

"It takes one bullet. It just takes a very little bit of pressure on a trigger. Once that bullet leaves the gun, it's not going to stop. It's tragic. With carrying a gun comes responsibility," said Bartholomew County Sheriff Matthew Myers.

Juli Lonaker's family knows all too well the impacts gun safety can have on a family. Her 6-year-old brother accidentally shot their father in 2016. The shooting took James Lonaker's, 62, life.

"He significantly carries that burden, and I don't think any child should," said Juli Lonaker said. "It just really wasn't fair, and the older we get, we realize life's not fair and that's a really hard lesson for a 6-year-old to have to learn so early in life."

Police say the boy got ahold of his dad's revolver and fired a shot.

James Lonaker was sitting on his desk and never saw his son pick up the gun, police say.

"It's difficult and it still is, navigating around that for him at such a young age. He is a wonderful kid. Amazingly talented at basketball. He is a good student, makes good grades," Judi Lonaker said.

She's now an advocate for gun safety.

"Accidents happen all the time. Even with good law-abiding, hard-working families, accidents happen," she said.

If you would like to learn more about the "Be SMART" campaign, click here.