(WVNS) — More than 16 thousand people die as victims of gun violence this year alone.

That is according to the Gun Violence archive as of Monday, October 24, 2022. Add to that another 1,290 people killed in unintentional shootings. All lives that could have been saved, shootings that could have been prevented. Could gun safety and a culture of respect for firearms prevent some of this?

“I was taught that it was a tool but it is a tool that can be deadly,” said Brittany Long.

For Long, respecting guns is not a lesson she had to learn the hard way. It is something she grew up with. She was taught to respect their power. She has been handling them since she was 4-years-old, when she started going hunting with her family. 

Long is now a semi pro sponsored shooter. She believes it is important for children to understand how NOT to handle guns and if you are going to keep them in your home, to go about that safely. 

“If you are using it for self defense, home protection, even for hunting or just to have it in the house teaching your children at a young age, even if you aren’t comfortable handling it yet they need to know what it is and how not to handle it. I think keeping them locked up with a combination or a key that only you have access to, that is super important as well,” said Long.

One of the most important things to remember when handling a firearm is knowing when it is loaded. Handing a loaded gun to another person is something Gaines Davis, Director of Engineering for SDS Imports said should never happen. He reminds people that if you are handling a gun, check for yourself first. 

“You never hand a loaded gun to another person. Likewise, if you receive a gun from someone else and they tell you it’s not loaded you check the gun for yourself,” Davis said. “Don’t take that chance don’t trust some ones word, verify it for yourself. Always keep a gun pointed in a safe direction, accidents can happen.”

Accidents CAN happen, that is why experienced gun owners said they support the Second Amendment. Long said the right to keep and bear arms is important, especially when guns often times get in the hands of the wrong people. She said the damage can be irreversible and knowing that at a young age is crucial. 

“I think it is important, obviously I am a big Second Amendment supporter and I think it is important for us to be able to defend ourselves from things like that. But at the same time, making sure our kids know, especially at an early age ,what kind of damage can be done and that it can’t be undone,” Long said. “Making sure we keep them out of the hands of people who don’t need them but in the arms of people who will need them to protect themselves.”

If you are ever in a situation where a gun is present and it is not yours or you do not feel safe, just “leave it alone, leave it alone and call someone,” said Davis.