Load those guns and they become lethal weapons.
Lose a loaded gun, even a small caliber one, on a public playground and it becomes a frightening recipe for disaster.
This scenario played out recently on the popular community playground at Oak Grove Elementary School. The longtime attraction for neighborhood kids, including the students at Oak Grove, is surrounded by the equally as user-friendly Huff’N Puff Freedom Trail.
Not a day or early evening goes by without throngs of children, their parents and community trail enthusiasts using the hot spot of fair-weather fun.
It is family friendly.
It is ideal recreation for adults.
It affords peaceful playtime for their kids.
Yet on the final Friday morning of the current school season, an extremely well-informed fifth-grade student named Dillon Selby may have saved the life, or lives, of schoolmates when he discovered a small gun lying on the ground near the playground’s swing set. Having completed an “Eddie Eagle” instructional course taught by Bradley County Sheriff’s Office deputy Jay Lawson, young Dillon knew to keep other children away from the weapon and to alert — immediately — teachers to the discovery.
The BCSO was called to the scene.
The weapon was found to be a .22 Magnum pistol.
It was loaded.
Let us be clear in our assessment. Let our readers understand this was an accident. The gun was lost by its owner who had visited the track and playground the evening before to exercise. He was licensed to carry the loaded weapon, one he routinely keeps in his vehicle when visiting schools or other public facilities. On this evening, he had forgotten to remove the weapon from his pocket. It fell from his possession without his knowledge sometime during the visit.
Thankfully, no physical harm came from this incident.
But the potential was there and especially with the fact that school children would return to the festive playground the following morning. Thanks to young Dillon, and the training he received from the “Eddie Eagle” safety program, catastrophe was avoided. It comes with irony that “Eddie Eagle” instruction is associated with the National Rifle Association, an organization that recognizes this fact: Children and loaded guns are not good playmates.
To his credit, Bradley County Fire Rescue firefighter Dray Crumley, the gun’s owner, stepped forward and acknowledged the weapon as being his after being alerted of its discovery from a front-page news article published by our newspaper the following Sunday. Crumley advised his supervisor, Fire Chief Dewey Woody, the weapon could be his. Woody recommended contacting the Sheriff’s Office. Crumley did so immediately.
The off-duty firefighter regrets the incident. He recognizes the severity of the action. He understands its terrifying potential. He has explained in detail what happened.
“There was no intent to carry the gun on the playground,” Crumley told our newspaper. “It was late and I stopped by the school to exercise.” He added, “It was after school hours ... and I forgot it was in my pocket.”
No one understands disaster — its potential and its aftermath — better than firefighters, law enforcement professionals and emergency medical responders. They live it. They breathe it. They see it ... daily. They know of its tragic impact on families. They’ve eye-witnessed its horror upon the unsuspecting innocent.
We quote from a past motto used by a local employer: “Safety is No Accident.”
Indeed it is not.
Safety requires forethought.
Safety relies on close attention.
Safety depends on an unprecedented dedication to task.
On this particular Friday morning on the Oak Grove Elementary School playground, our community was fortunate. Yet, fortune comes to those who are best prepared. In this case, young Dillon Selby was our teacher and model.
Life’s lessons come in many sizes, shapes and circumstances.
This was one.
We pray all have learned from what could have bred unthinkable tragedy.