Community guns, community risk
Nine-year-old accidentally shoots self in hand with gun he found in lot
Published on 7/23/2013 by the Times Union written by Matthew Hamilton and Cameron Castan
Albany: The outcome could have been tragic for a 9-year-old boy injured Saturday when he shot himself in the hand with a gun he found in a vacant lot.
Instead, Anthony Chaney Jr. was treated for a minor wound and released and is "doing fine," his grandmother said Monday afternoon.
How the young boy came across the weapon was unclear. But the incident rekindled an old community concern about community guns, which are hidden and shared by a small group of people who use them when needed and then return them to a secret spot.
"Community guns are a problem. I remember back in the late '90s people were stashing guns all over the place. Some people were even renting them out for $50," said Albany Councilman Dominick Calsolaro, who pushed for creation of the city's Gun Violence Task Force.
"I think it is a problem maybe not as prevalent as it used to be, but the fact that a 9-year-old boy injured himself means that this is still an issue that needs to be dealt with."
Police Department spokesman Steve Smith would not say if investigators suspect the weapon was stashed in a hiding place or was dropped or lost.
The investigation is continuing, he said.
Janet Wilburn said her grandson found the gun in a flower pot in a dusty lot between two homes on the 300 block of Orange Street between Henry Johnson Boulevard and Lexington Avenue.
She said she and other adults were at the front of the house when the boy, who was alone, shot himself in the left hand.
Albany has seen the tragedy that shared guns on the street can produce.
The stray bullet that killed 10-year-old Kathina Thomas in 2008 on the sidewalk outside her home in Albany's West Hill was fired from a handgun that the shooter said was kept in a spot known to many.
At the time, Jermayne Timmons, then 16, told police "everyone in the neighborhood uses that gun." He said he ditched the community gun in a garbage can because that's "where we keep it."
Timmons was convicted in the girl's death and is serving 15 years to life in prison. The weapon was never found.
Regarding Saturday's incident, Wilburn said she has no idea how the gun got there. But she said that the gun was gone when police arrived. Police did not say whether the gun was found.
Calsolaro urged residents to speak out against gun violence and to tell police if they know where weapons are hidden.
"We need members of the community to inform the police, even if anonymously," he said adding, "Police can't check every hole in the wall or behind every bush, but the community needs to inform the police. Too many times, people are afraid of getting in trouble."
Wilburn said her grandson is doing fine despite his injury. "We're just thankful it wasn't more tragic than it was," she said.