Last week, Michael Payless, 33, sat watching television in his home with two of his children. Then, in a split second, he was dead from the bullet of a gun. Behind the trigger -- his 3-year-old son.
According to police, the boy found a loaded handgun lying nearby, and picked it up, and accidentally discharged it. His father was pronounced dead at the scene.
The story is so heartbreaking on so many levels. For the children who lost their father, and for their mother who lost her husband and will now be faced to raise her children alone. But mostly I ache for this 3-year-old boy. How do you live your life knowing that you shot your own father?
Sure, he'll be told it was an accident, that it wasn't his fault. But will he ever truly be able to accept that and move on? I hope so. I hope he -- and his entire family -- get the kind of support and counseling they need to deal with such a tragedy.
Perhaps most heartbreaking of all, however, is how easily all of this could have been avoided -- if only a loaded gun hadn't been lying around. There are few details, and it's not clear whose gun it was or why it was in the home, but I can't think of any explanation that would justify it.
Nothing can undo this tragedy now, but others can learn from it. I'm not someone who seeks to ban guns, but with the right to bear arms comes the incredible responsibility to treat them with the utmost care, and never ever put them anywhere a child could potentially get a hold of them. Ever.
Do you have guns in your home? What measures do you take to keep them from your children?
Image via Westside Shooter/Flickr