Kanawha school officials, police urge parents to practice safe gun storage

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Security officials at Kanawha County Schools are teaming up with local enforcement in an effort to urge parents to keep guns away from their children.

Keith Vititoe, safety and security director at KCS, held a press conference Friday morning with Kanawha County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Joe Crawford, Charleston Police Chief Tyke Hunt and other officers to discuss the importance of safe gun storage at home.

The effort comes after a 6 year old student in Virginia brought a loaded gun to school and shot his teacher in the chest earlier this month.

Vititoe said they want to prevent a similar incident from occurring in Kanawha County.

“What we know is that over three-quarters of the incidents of school aged students where students brought guns to schools and committed some kind of mass attack occurred because they obtained it from the family home,” he said.

Vititoe said gun owners should have a safe that their kids can’t access.

“You have to, around children, store the weapon unloaded, the ammunition needs to be separate somewhere to where they can’t easily retrieve it and load it into the weapon and then it needs to be locked and secure,” he said.

It’s also important to hide the key or digital code to the safe.

“Be very careful when you’re storing keys to the cabinets or gun safes where you’re storing your weapons because children will absolutely be able to find it,” Vititoe said.

Chief Deputy Crawford said, much like law enforcement officers, parents need to be responsible gun owners.

“We have to do a good job of securing our weapons when we’re at home, when we’re not on duty, or coming to and from work. That’s something we have to do on a daily basis,” he said.

Crawford is advising parents to check their kids’ backpacks every morning before they leave for school.

Police Chief Hunt said the issue hits home for him.

“When I was in sixth grade, a fellow classmate was shot and killed because another kid his age was playing with a firearm. I prayed to the good Lord every day that no parent would ever have to bury a child,” Hunt said.

From the school side, Vititoe said counselors and other staff are always mindful of students’ behaviors, especially those with mental health issues.

“We’re looking for signs of violence, idolizing violence, if they talk about school shootings, fascination with weapons or violent behavior,” he said.

According to BeSmartforKids.org, 4.6 million children in the U.S. live in a household with at least one loaded, unlocked gun. To learn more about how to keep guns out of the hands of children, CLICK HERE.

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