Targeting Safety, Inventor's Creation Looks to End Accidental Shootings
By Keith Martin, Assistant Editor
While numerous devices have been introduced to make guns safer, newspaper accounts and television news reports from around the nation still depict many young people who have been accidentally shot. It was one of these stories that inspired a Florida man to create a device he says will protect numerous people against the improper use of firearms.
"What seems to get the most press are the youth of today that are involved in a firearm tragedy," says Mike Worley, inventor of the Safety Bullet. "The tragedy extends to everyone, even those that supposedly know how to handle a gun. It's everyone's problem and it's an issue that needs to be addressed."
The Safety Bullet is a small device hidden inside the gun's bullet chamber. If the owner wants to use the gun for protection, the device can be quickly and safety ejected, allowing a bullet in the next chamber to be fired.
If the gun is accidentally fired with the Safety Bullet in the chamber, the force from pulling the trigger pushes a pin into the plastic casing around the bullet, expanding it and causing the device to become locked in the firing chamber. To remove it, a special device that is sold with the Safety Bullet is needed.
In addition to preventing all of the accidental deaths and injuries by firearm he hears about in the news, Worley claims the Safety Bullet may also save the lives of those contemplating suicide.
"Sometimes a kid finds a gun and pulls the trigger [to kill themselves]," he says. "With Safety Bullet, [the gun does not fire], they are still alive and think about the choice they almost made. Granted, if someone is hooked on killing themselves they will, but those spur of the moment incidents will stop."
While the patent approval for his invention will take nearly three years to approve, in the meantime Worley is spreading the news about the Safety Bullet. He recently spoke with Time2act.org about how his idea can save numerous lives.
What drove you to invent the Safety Bullet?
Worley: I read a story about a four year-old child who found a gun and killed his six year-old sister with it and it make me sick. I thought that there had to be a way to stop something like this and went to work on creating a safety device. There were a lot of devices out there, from locks to safes, yet people are still dying.
I worked on the idea for about a year. I was becoming frustrated. Then one day, I met an elderly woman in the post office who was with a boy who had to be about 22-years old and was [severely impaired]. I inquired what had happened to him and she told me that when he was a boy, he accidentally shot himself in the head. She was also worried because she was getting on in years and wondered who would take care of him after she had passed. [Seeing this], I went right home and refined the idea I had been working on and came up with what is the Safety Bullet.
It is the answer. Safety Bullet will stop all of the incidents [people read and hear about in terms of accidental shootings].
There are 1.2 million households with kids and loaded guns with no safety devices in this country. Kids will find these guns -- if they can find Christmas presents, they will find a gun. Kids see guns on television all the time and play games like cops and robbers. They want the power and the power lies in that gun.
Last year, 3,500 kids were kicked out of school for bringing a gun to school. That's just scary. Kids find a firearm and want to show it to their friends. This could've been a worse situation if they had killed others with that gun.
I've been around guns my whole life, including hunting as a child - it put food on our table. A gun is a tool and has a special purpose, like a car. But you wouldn't let your four year-old drive off in your car, so why would you let your four year-old handle your gun?
How can your invention have an impact on young people killed by accidental gunfire?
Worley: There is a man in my area that owns a firearms shop and sells all kinds of safety devices, from trigger locks to safes, and he has said that he'll clear his shelves and sell only [the Safety Bullet]. He said 'I can't believe no one has thought of this before,' but they have. I saw lots of patents of other [similar] devices, but the whole point of the Safety Bullet is that no one knows it is in the gun. Most kids get a gun and pull the trigger. The biggest rule in handling guns is 'never give a loaded gun to anyone' - [because] they will pull the trigger.
The good news is that accidental deaths [among young people] are declining. For example, in 1994, there were 512 deaths and in 1999, there were 214, but that's just for people under the age of 19. [Deaths and injuries among other age groups] are also down, but it is mostly caused by stupid things like someone dropping their loaded gun. Safety Bullet would stop all this, so whenever you [hear about] an accidental shooting, multiply that by two [for the number of people these incidents kill] and then multiply by 10 for all those shot who were not killed.
Emory University recently conducted a study where they brought 20 groups of five young people into a room with a real gun and had four or five plastic guns placed throughout a room. These children's parents watched from behind a mirror. In 15 of the groups, the kids found the real gun. Everyone had to handle the gun and some pulled the trigger. In [all of the groups], only one child told an adult that there was a gun in the room.
So the question becomes, 'What can we do?' If you are a parent and you keep a loaded gun in the house, you are crazy. I can understand that some feel the need to do this. I know a lot of divorced, single women with crazy ex-boyfriends who keep loaded guns next to their bed and they have the kids in the house.
Kids are drawn to guns and the problem is that we glorify guns. Growing up, a gun was a tool for me, now a gun equals power. It's a tool for hunting game or protecting one's self, not for fun.
What has been the reaction to the Safety Bullet from both sides of the gun debate?
Worley: I've contacted the National Rifle Association and talked to someone there who thinks this is a brilliant idea and with other protection devices it provides another layer of protection. No one wants to see another accidental shooting.
I've also talked to the Brady Group about this and they are enthusiastic about the device coming out and want me to do demonstrations on it for them.
There are a couple of groups out there who think I'm out trying to take their guns - you will always have that fringe group of people. [The Safety Bullet] is about being pro-safety and making guns as safe as we can. It prevents gun accidents.
Overall, both pro- and anti-gun [groups] like it. I used to work in collections in the past and I'd do mediation between two groups. To get to a resolve, you have to have common ground. The Safety Bullet will bring the two sides together. [Forget] the argument of 'No one is going to take our guns away from us because we are protected by the Constitution.' Let's fight the fight we can win and make guns safer. One life lost is one life lost. Every 20 minutes, every day, a gun hurts someone. Furthermore, one in five teen deaths are caused by a gun and gunshot wounds to those under 16 have doubled from 1987 to today.
The statistic that really sat me down is that since 1979, there have been over 70,000 deaths by accidental gunfire and that is more people than were killed in Vietnam. Additionally, over five times that amount are hurt by an accidental shooting. I have the answer [to avoid this] in [the Safety Bullet].
What would you say to young people about gun safety?
Worley: If you are interested in guns or even afraid of guns, take a gun safety course and learn how to handle one properly. That way, if you are ever in a situation - even if you don't personally own one - where there is a gun, you will know how to take care of yourself.
If you own a gun, keep it locked up and unloaded or keep it on your person so no one else can get access to it. And always treat a gun like it is loaded.
For more information on the Safety Bullet, contact Mike Worley at (850) 872-8550 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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