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Death of pastor’s daughter demonstrates serious issue

Published: Monday, February 20, 2012

Updated: Monday, February 20, 2012 00:02

Hannah Kelley, 20, was accidentally shot through a wall of her family's church in Lealman, Fla., and died Saturday. Authorities have determined that the shooting was an accident, but the tragedy shows the dangers of firearms in even the most seemingly safe situations involving them.

Kelley's fiance, Dustin Bueller, and a friend were looking at Moises Zambrana's gun in a closet of Kelley's church. Zambrana, who was ironically showing off the gun's safety features, said he removed the gun's magazine, but had unknowingly left a bullet in the chamber. The gun went off and the bullet shot through the wall of the next room, hitting Kelley in the head.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), accidental death is the fifth-leading cause of death overall, including accidental death by firearm. Bueller was turning 21 and was simply looking at the gun because he was interested in purchasing a firearm for his birthday. Yet, a simple situation turned deadly because of a mistake.

The data on accidental firearm-related death is often lumped together with accidental automobile-related death or intentional firearm-related death, such as homicide or suicide. This could pose problems for awareness of the issue if it is difficult to determine how frequently these mistakes truly occur.

According to the CDC, firearm-related injuries are the second leading cause of injury-related death. The death rate for males is almost seven times higher than that of females. Add that to the fact that Kelley was in church, Zambrana was certain taking out the gun was safe and the situation makes Kelley an unusual victim for such an accident.

Deaths and injuries do occur from firearm-related incidents and even in the safest of circumstances, dangerous accidents can occur when one least expects it, and few know that better than Zambrana and Kelley's family and friends.

More awareness and a clearer sense of research and reporting are necessary to prevent future accidents. No matter how safe a particular gun may be and no matter how skilled the owner, it is important to be vigilant when handling dangerous weapons and detailed when it comes to researching them.

Authorities did not press charges against Zambrana and Kelley's family told the Tampa Bay Times that they have forgiven him. The family wishes to see the good in the situation, attorney David Gibbs told the Times: "Through this tragedy, Hannah was able to touch the world."

In Kelley's honor, there needs to be more awareness about accidental firearm deaths. While many owners argue in favor of a gun's safety features, this tragic story proves that one unfortunate mistake can take away a life.

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