Mother Killed After Child Finds Her Gun

The tragic consequences of not securing your firearms properly and second to that, not educating your children on firearms, can and will ruin and take lives. Negligent acts by some irresponsible gun owners end in shattered lives.  We’re not just talking about primary victims but secondary victims as well, the survivors.


Take the tragic case of Gabriel Alexis Henderson, a 25-year-old mother of five from Cornelius, North Carolina, who was accidentally shot and killed by one of her children, after allegedly leaving her firearm unsecured in her purse.  The full details of this tragic event have not been released, however, from reporting we do have this information:

The only other people in the apartment at the time of the shooting were Henderson’s five children. The oldest was in the living room and the other four were in the bedroom when they found a small semiautomatic handgun in their mother’s purse, police said.

“The mother was inadvertently shot, as well as the youngest child,” authorities said in the release. “The youngest child was transported by Medic to Atrium Main in Charlotte with non-life-threatening injuries.”

No one wants to see loss of life, especially from the presumed accidental hands of a child. The lessons learned from this tragic event should not be lost on the public at large. Cornelius police Captain Jennifer Thompson offered up a bit of her own advice to gun owners:

Thompson stressed the importance of gun safety and said residents can reach out to the police department for a gun lock.

“We know that children are going to look at a gun and not be able to tell if it’s real or safe,” she told local station Fox 46. “That’s why we talk about how important it is to be a good gun owner.”

“Patrol officers can come by and show you how to use the gun lock and be a good, safe gun owner,” she added.


While Thompson’s advice is well intentioned, it is slightly tone deaf to many in the gun owning community. Gun locks are great tools to use to keep firearms secure, but they are not for everyone. Each individual’s circumstance is particular to them and the “just put a gun lock on it” mentality is neglecting to address all the issues. This one-size-fits-all stance neglects people’s need to protect themselves while in their home. There is more to safely securing a firearm than rendering it useless.

With Henderson’s firearm reported to be in her purse at the time of the event, this calls into question the importance of keeping track of your firearm and speaks towards some of the perils of off-body carry. No doubt Henderson’s firearm should have been secured. Perhaps she should have had the firearm on her person when she got into her home? The firearm could have just as easily been put into a quick access lock box for Henderson to obtain if needed in the home. The possibilities are endless and go much further than a gun lock.

The other element that needs to be discussed is the level of understanding of the children and what they were taught. Knowing nothing about the situation, Monday morning quarterbacking on what was or was not taught about firearm safety to these children is moot, especially in the wake of a death.

However, this does illustrate how teaching our children that they are not to play with guns is vital.  This week alone, Bearing Arms has featured two articles (you can find them here and here) revolving around the importance of teaching children about firearms. What other resources does the Cornelius police department offer, such as hosting Eddie Eagle events, or educational workshops on other safe storage methods?


My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Henderson. Unfortunately that won’t bring her back. Yes, if Thompson’s advice were followed, this event would probably not have occurred, but there are a multitude of other solutions to the issue at hand.


John Petrolino is a US Merchant Marine Officer, writer, author of “Decoding Firearms: An Easy to Read Guide on General Gun Safety & Use” and NRA certified pistol, rifle and shotgun instructor living under and working to change New Jersey’s draconian and unconstitutional gun laws. You can find him on the web at on twitter at @johnpetrolino and on instagram @jpetrolinoiii

Join the conversation as a VIP Member