Child’s death inspires new gun safety classes

LITTLE RIVER, S.C. (WBTW) – The tragic death of an eleven year old boy is inspiring new gun safety classes in the Grand Strand.

Mylissa Bellamy is teaching gun safety classes to expand on her organization’s mission. It is founded on her very personal story – her son Matthew’s death at age 11. It happened in 2010 when he went to a friend’s house and the friend pulled out an unsecured gun in the guest room.

“He turned towards Matthew to show him the gun with his finger on the trigger, and it accidentally discharged,” Bellamy explained at a class on Saturday afternoon. “Matthew was shot in the chest and passed away in the ambulance.”

So she started The Matthew Bellamy Project aimed at giving away gun locks. Now she hopes new classes will help too. Matthew’s father Chip plays a hands-on role in teaching the classes also.

“It may remove some of the magic and mystique around guns when they understand how dangerous they really are,” Mylissa Bellamy said.

The safety classes are for kids who may have already handled guns with family and also those who have not had much exposure to guns – children like ten-year-old Brienna Baurle who was at the class on Saturday.

“They’re still scary a little because if you accidently pull a trigger and you didn’t know if it was loaded or anything you could kill someone,” the 5th-grader said. “It makes me want to learn how to stop this so I’m not the person who can get shot or shot someone else.”

Her mother Cheryl said she felt even more inclined to teach her three daughters about guns after moving from Connecticut to South Carolina. She feels guns are much more common in people’s homes in the South.

“To me it was kind of like swimming lessons,” she said. “It’s not a luxury. It’s a necessity – learn how to use it, learn how to be safe around it.”

Brienna’s mom said she feels sure her daughters will visit a home with a gun, if they haven’t already.

Mylissa Bellamy said that idea is a major reason she wanted to teach classes. She realizes that although some children will not be exposed to guns through family hunting or target practice, many children will encounter guns at other homes or while spending time with friends and other families.

“It’s important to know what to do if you end up in that situation,” she said. “We just wanted to see how many kids we could reach – how far can we spread this message.”

Bellamy also encourages parents to always ask other parents about guns in their home when their children will be visiting. She said it is important to know if your child is visiting a home with unsecured guns. Just ask, she said.

Additionally, the classes are not meant to discourage gun use or replace what parents have already taught. They are just to back up those gun safety lessons Bellamy said.

The Matthew Bellamy Project is now offering the classes monthly. More details are available on the organization’s website at www.thematthewbellamyproject.com

A large majority of the organization’s outreach, including school programs and information booths at local events, is funded through community donations.

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