TYLER, Texas (KETK) – A recent local tragedy has highlighted the importance of gun safety.

According to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, a safe hunt begins by observing the fundamentals of firearm safety. In 2017, there were 3,513 “firearm deaths” in Texas, according to the CDC.

Over the weekend, an 11-year-old East Texas girl was killed after being accidentally shot by her dad on a hunting trip. In a press conference, Harrison County Sheriff Brandon Fletcher explained some basics of gun safety.

“I hope that this incident will bring light to many, many other families kids and hunters,” said Fletcher.

“Treat all guns as if they’re loaded,” Fletcher said. “You can’t preach it enough, you have to say it every time you touch one. Remind them, remind them, remind them. Remind yourself. It’s not just the kids, in this incident, it wasn’t the kid. I don’t think you can practice gun safety enough to say you’re a professional at it, it’s something you have to practice all the time.”

Some tips from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department include the following:

  • Always point the muzzle in a safe direction
  • Treat every firearm with the same respect as a loaded gun
  • Be sure of your target and what is in front of and beyond your target
  • Unload firearms and unstring conventional bows when not in use
  • Handle firearms, arrows and ammunition carefully
  • Know your safe zone-of-fire and stick to it
  • Control your emotions when it comes to safety
  • Wear hearing and eye protection
  • Don’t drink alcohol or take drugs before or while handling firearms
  • Be aware of additional circumstances that require added caution or safety awareness

John Lippencott, a hunting safety instructor for the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, said “those rules were set up to save lives to protect people it’s when you get overly  used to something I’ve done this over a 1000 times well, guess what? You always have to follow the rules.”

Common causes of hunting accidents include:

HUNTER JUDGEMENT

  • Victim out of sight/moved into shooters line of fire
  • Victim covered by shooter swinging on game
  • Victim mistaken for game
  • Horseplay with loaded firearm
  • Use of alcohol or drugs

HANDLING A GUN

  • Improper loading/unloading gun
  • Dropped firearm
  • Discharge of firearm in or around vehicle
  • Improper crossing of an obstacle
  • Walking with loaded firearm

For more information on hunter education, you can visit the hunter education page from TPWD.