AUBURN, AL (WTVM) - A tragic fatal shooting over the weekend claimed the life of an Auburn teen.
The investigation is ongoing, but Auburn police say it appears a group of friends were handling the gun when it discharged and struck the 18-year-old man in the chest.
NRA statistics show more people are buying guns and local law enforcement leaders say owners have to take responsibility for their weapons.
Local law enforcement says buying a gun is not enough to protect your family – you have to know how to safely use it.
"We are certainly proponent for individuals' right to possess a fire arm but we want them to be responsible competent with firearms," said Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.
Since 1992, the Lee County Sheriff's office has offered a handgun safety course through Auburn University's Office of Professional and Continuing Education.
"We have seen cases throughout the years that resulted in tragedy simply because individuals were handling a fire arm and not doing it properly, not doing it safely and it led to tragedy and we want to do everything we can to avoid that," Sheriff Jones said.
The course teaches safe gun handling, shooting and marksmanship, as well as laws pertaining to gun ownership.
Sheriff Jones says the majority of his students are women. The three-day, eight-hour course costs $80.
For many students, this is the first they've fired a handgun, so they train on the department's simulator before shooting their own gun at the firing range.
"It helps to know before they go out to the range, and what the gun is going to do with the recoil, it takes away some of that apprehension," Sheriff Jones said. "It's about building competency and confidence, and the safe use and handling of firearms."
Bottom line, Sheriff Jones says if you bring a gun into your home, especially with children and teens, it's your responsibility to be safe and keep that gun secured and away from them.
Sheriff Jones also urges gun owners to speak with their children about the dangers of firearms and not playing with them.
"Make sure you keep those firearms secure and away from those youngsters, they are naturally curious you have to keep them out of the reach of children," Sheriff Jones said.
Sheriff Jones urges new gun owners to take the class and says it's a great refresher for those who already feel comfortable handling a firearm.