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Toddler might have thought gun was toy

Posted July 22, 2010

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— The parents of a 2-year-old Raleigh boy who shot and killed himself one month ago said Thursday that they regret buying him a toy gun, which they believe gave him the wrong idea about real guns.

Now Kim and Timothy Atwater want to spread a message to other parents about gun safety.

"If you have to own guns in your home, try to put them in a place where they're not visible," Timothy Atwater said Thursday. "I don’t want no one else to encounter what we're going through."

T.J. Atwater was with his mother visiting family in Vance County on June 22 when he grabbed a gun on a counter.

"I feel like, within my heart, that if my wife and I had never purchased that toy gun, T.J. would not have known what a toy gun was," Timothy Atwater said.

Toddler might have thought gun was toy Toddler might have thought gun was toy

Authorities decided this week not to file charges in the case, because the child did not live at the residence where the shooting happened.

Kim Atwater said guns at the home where the shooting happened were normally secured and that the adults who lived there did not realize one gun had been left out.

"They took good care of T. J.," she said. "We visited them a lot. This was just an accident."


This story is closed for comments.

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  • wildcat Jul 23, 2010

    My condolences to the family.

  • wildcat Jul 23, 2010

    The best thing to do is to lock the guns up or put a lock on the guns out of the reach of underage children even teenagers and young adults. Parents and other adults do the right thing and make it safe in your home. No one wants tragedy when it could have been avoided.

  • yruatwit Jul 23, 2010

    There is virtually NO excuse, none, nada for this senseless death. If guns are handled and secured properly, and PROPERLY being exponentially much safer than most clowns who own guns handle them and think they are safety minded, then no one should ACCIDENTALLY die from a gun shot. And yes, I own handguns and yes, I've had children.

  • fishon Jul 23, 2010

    But the real question is, how can a 2 year old figure out how to turn off the safety and pull the trigger to pull the hammer back on a handgun and shoot himself

    Depends on the gun. A glock has a trigger safety, so if you can put 4-6 lbs pull on the trigger it can fire. No other safety to mess with. Lots of guns do not have a visible hammer and many of them are safe to carry kocked.
    None of them are made for little children however.

  • moonpie Jul 23, 2010

    "If you have to own guns in your home, try to put them in a place where they're not visible,"

    Don't "TRY" to put them up, PUT them up...period...where they are not accessible....little kids always seem to find them unless you do.

  • JAT Jul 23, 2010

    It's amazing that all these people have guns lying around. And didn't the adults see the gun on the counter? And how did the 2 year old reach the counter to begin with? This is a terrible story, but at least the parents don't seem to be blaming anyone but themselves. And it's not just teaching kids not to touch a gun - you have to teach them if they see someone else touch one, to RUN AWAY. My child may not touch one but that doesn't keep her from getting shot by another child who does. End story - just put guns away where kids can't reach them. If you are so scared for your life that you have to keep guns around, you shouldn't have kids visiting your house anyways.

  • krazykristie06 Jul 23, 2010

    My daughter (age 5) is terrified of guns...toys or not. Teach them while they're young that guns can hurt! And not to ever touch them or you'll get hurt!! When they're old enough to know better, 7 or 8, then explain to them the real reasons for guns. Trust me on this, because then they won't even be tempted to touch a gun at this age. We're working now on our 18 mo old son. So far its working.

  • wakeresident Jul 23, 2010

    I have never once seen a child with a toy gun in which they aren't pretending to shoot a person, including my friends who "don't allow their kids to shoot at people or animals." Sorry, but that's what kids do with toy guns, and if they get their hand on a real gun, they do the same. I don't think taking toy guns away is the answer. Adults being grown up and locking away their guns definitely is an answer.

  • wakeresident Jul 23, 2010

    Actually, there is a study that shows that children are unable to resist playing with a gun even after gun safety courses. I forget where it is. So, exposing them to guns isn't the answer, either. Locking them up is. As a parent, if you know someone has a gun, the first thing out of your mouth when you walk in the door is "are your guns secure". My brother has guns "for protection" (not sure how he'd protect himself since he doesn't keep it loaded...), and keeps them out. We call from the driveway and tell him to put them up. We don't go to my grandfather's house, because he keeps a loaded gun in the kitchen table. His answer is to tell my 22 month old not to touch it. No, she is a child. I do not allow her access to things that can easily kill her or someone else. It's loaded and ready to go, and we've informed him we will not visit unless he shows us that it is in a safe place. People are stupid with their guns, and then quick to blame it on lack of exposure to guns.

  • smcallah Jul 23, 2010

    "I can hardly hold a gun up they are so heavy how in the world did this 2 year old hold the gun and shoot it?"

    You don't have to be able to pick up a gun to shoot it. But the real question is, how can a 2 year old figure out how to turn off the safety and pull the trigger to pull the hammer back on a handgun and shoot himself?

    It sounds to me like the gun was already kocked and laying out ready to use. Are the parents in a line of business that they need a kocked gun laying out? And yes, I know I spelled "kocked" wrong.