By KAREN KANTNER
Assistant Managing Editor
Six years ago a Wapakoneta womanâs son was killed in an accidental shooting.
The pain hasnât lessened in that time, and with the passing this week of the sixth anniversary of 18-year-old Josh Martinâs death, Brenda Martin again issued a plea to families everywhere.
âPlease talk to your loved ones about gun safety,â Martin said as tears streamed down her face.
Itâs a message echoed on banners, posters and pamphlets she has distributed since her sonâs death. They all promote an orange dot logo she has pushed to become a nationwide symbol to remember D.O.T. (to put the gun Down, leave the barrel Open, and keep hands off the Trigger).
As the weather gets warmer and more people are getting out and shooting guns, Martin said she doesnât want another teenâs plans to shoot targets ending with a funeral and a mother burying her child.
âIt feels like it just happened,â Martin said. âYou donât get over losing your child. Itâs always there.
âEveryone of us got altered, we all still struggle,â she said of her two younger children and other family members.
Martin herself has struggled with being out in public and can no longer give the gun safety talks she once did for large groups. Still, sheâs hoping Joshâs story can still make a difference, even if itâs one person at a time.
âIâm a broken person and I hate it,â Martin said. âThings would have turned out so different if this wouldnât have happened.â
She said adding to her pain is the feeling that her sonâs life was disposable because she feels justice was never served in her sonâs death.
âWhether itâs 200 people or two people, Iâm going to keep telling Joshâs story for the rest of my life and hope people listen,â Martin said.
While she harbors resentment at the legal system, Martin said she will never be able to thank enough those who have offered their kindness and compassion to her and her children in the years since her sonâs death.
Steve Farmer, who operates Insight Firearms Training Development, and has trained law enforcement, corrections officers and private citizens for 17 years, linkâs Joshâs story to his website at ohioccwclasses.com. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,811 children 19-years-old and younger were killed by a gun in the United States in 2009, the latest year for which statistics were available. One hundred-fourteen of those deaths were accidental.
âItâs a message for parents,â said Farmer, who has worked in law enforcement for 25 years. âEven if they donât own a gun, it is still important to teach kids about gun safety.â
With more than 50 percent of American households having a gun, Farmer said itâs important for everyone to know the basic rules in handling guns.
Farmer advised treating all guns as if they are loaded and never pointing them at oneself or someone else. Also he said be sure of the intended target, always point the muzzle in a safe direction (the safest of which is an empty, lower corner of a room), and keep fingers off triggers and instead leave them along the frame until on target and making the conscious decision to shoot.
âIf you own a gun and itâs not locked up, the more accessible a gun is, you are playing with fire,â Farmer said.
The Allen County resident said heâs wanted to bring his gun safety program into local schools but has been turned down in the past.
He hopes he can reach more youth that way.
âParents canât teach what they donât know,â Farmer said. âItâs something that needs to be taught in the community.âItâs a message Joshâs mom keeps repeating to anyone who will listen as she continues to replay every day in her mind the day her son was shot accidentally by a longtime friend.
âJoshie,â as Martin affectionately referred to her son, was leaving that weekend for Army training, just one of many dreams he had that he never got to fulfill.
âI canât imagine him being just a number,â Martin said reflecting on Joshâs death. âWe talk about sun block safety, motorcycle helmet safety, wearing safety glasses if youâre working with machinery. We need to talk about using common sense and taking safety measures with guns.â