By KAREN KANTNER
Assistant Managing Editor
Six years ago a Wapakoneta woman’s son was killed in an accidental shooting.
The pain hasn’t lessened in that time, and with the passing this week of the sixth anniversary of 18-year-old Josh Martin’s death, Brenda Martin again issued a plea to families everywhere.
“Please talk to your loved ones about gun safety,” Martin said as tears streamed down her face.
It’s a message echoed on banners, posters and pamphlets she has distributed since her son’s 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 doesn’t want another teen’s plans to shoot targets ending with a funeral and a mother burying her child.
“It feels like it just happened,” Martin said. “You don’t get over losing your child. It’s always there.
“Everyone of us got altered, we all still struggle,” 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, she’s hoping Josh’s story can still make a difference, even if it’s one person at a time.
“I’m a broken person and I hate it,” Martin said. “Things would have turned out so different if this wouldn’t have happened.”
She said adding to her pain is the feeling that her son’s life was disposable because she feels justice was never served in her son’s death.
“Whether it’s 200 people or two people, I’m going to keep telling Josh’s story for the rest of my life and hope people listen,” 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 son’s death.
Steve Farmer, who operates Insight Firearms Training Development, and has trained law enforcement, corrections officers and private citizens for 17 years, link’s Josh’s 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.
“It’s a message for parents,” said Farmer, who has worked in law enforcement for 25 years. “Even if they don’t own a gun, it is still important to teach kids about gun safety.”
With more than 50 percent of American households having a gun, Farmer said it’s 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.
“If you own a gun and it’s not locked up, the more accessible a gun is, you are playing with fire,” Farmer said.
The Allen County resident said he’s 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.
“Parents can’t teach what they don’t know,” Farmer said. “It’s something that needs to be taught in the community.”It’s a message Josh’s 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.
“Joshie,” 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.
“I can’t imagine him being just a number,” Martin said reflecting on Josh’s death. “We talk about sun block safety, motorcycle helmet safety, wearing safety glasses if you’re working with machinery. We need to talk about using common sense and taking safety measures with guns.”