After 9-year-old’s death, prosecutor calls for safe gun storage law

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — The Kalamazoo County prosecutor is urging legislators to pass a safe gun storage law in the wake of a 9-year-old’s death.

Police identified the victim Monday as 9-year-old Carl Atkins. Prosecutor Jeff Getting says investigators are working to determine if the shooting was accidental.

“The initial reporting is that there were three children that were there in the home at the time this happened and that there were no parents,” Getting said.

House Bill 5066 would make it a felony for failing to safely store a firearm that kills or injures a child. Getting is working with other prosecutors who are drafting similar legislation.

He says prosecutors can use child abuse laws to argue negligence or pursue manslaughter charges, but that does not always fit every case.

“I know that there are cases where it would be helpful,” Getting said.

The bill proposes penalties for the owner of the weapon and the seller if they fail to inform the buyer of these rules.

“It requires that a person who is selling a firearm tell the purchaser if there is a minor in your home. If there are going to be children in your home, legally you have an obligation to safely store your firearm,” Getting said.

KDPS would not say who owns the gun that killed the child.

“No one is arguing that there’s something inherently wrong with gun ownership. There isn’t. People should be allowed to own guns, but with that comes a responsibility,” Getting said.

News 8 has learned through Illinois court documents that the child’s mother Consuela Johnson was sentenced on a charge of endangering the life or health of a child in 2012.

A Kalamazoo County Court on Friday authorized the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to take custody of Johnson’s six other children living at the home. Consuela declined comment Monday to News 8.

Prosecutors are determining if charges will be filed in this case. Getting says a safe gun storage law would have an impact.

“If that gun isn’t left loaded, in a place accessible to a 9-year-old child, this doesn’t happen,” Getting said.

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