The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

February 26, 2011

Shooting tragedy prompts gun safety workshop

NEOSHO, Mo. — A pastor and a local sheriff are working to raise awareness of gun safety education in the wake of a fatal gun accident last December.

Ernest Friend, the pastor at Neosho Community Church, said he was inspired by the tragic shooting of 14-year-old shooting victim Megan Reppond on Dec. 27. Reppond was at a slumber party with a group of girls in Neosho when she was accidentally shot by one of her friends in a handgun mishap.

More than 30 people, including roughly a dozen children, attended Saturday’s event. The gun safety course featured videos and presentations by Newton County Sheriff Ken Copeland and Vern Manning, a hunter safety instructor.

“We want the children to respect a gun,” Friend said. “We all try to teach our children don’t play with matches. But we seldom teach them don’t play with guns.”

The workshop stressed several rules for proper gun safety, including treating every gun as if it were loaded; never pointing the gun at a person; and keeping ammunition separate from the gun in the home.

Copeland also said those who don’t know how to operate a gun should not even pick up the weapon.

“Guns are not bad,” he said. “Our forefathers hunted with guns and used them for protection, and we still do that today. But we’ve got to teach our kids that life’s not a video game. In video games, there’s no consequences to anything. In real life, there’s a lot of consequences.”

Joplin resident Ladonna Moran brought her son and her great-nephew to Saturday’s workshop.

“These guys just need to know how to handle (guns),” she said. “They needed to see that somebody else was telling them the same things I tell them, so it’s not just me nagging.”

A settlement was reached on Feb. 14 in Jasper County Circuit Court between Megan Reppond’s parents and Richard “Scott” Arkle, his wife, Shirley, and the carrier of their homeowner policy, Shelter Mutual Insurance Co.

Ginger Reppond, the victim’s mother, will receive $97,500 of the $100,000 liability policy payment, and the girl’s biological father, Gregory Fast, will receive the other $2,500. The settlement was reached between the parties without any lawsuit being filed.

As part of the settlement, the Repponds have agreed not to seek any further compensation from the Arkles or any of the girls who were present at the slumber party.

Megan Reppond died of a single shot to the head from a .38-caliber handgun belonging to Richard Arkle that had been left on a piano in a room of his home that he did not anticipate his daughter or her three teenage friends entering during a sleepover Dec. 27, according to authorities. Arkle had taken the gun out of a safe to try out a new holster he received as a Christmas gift.

The Newton County sheriff has said the shooting happened when the girls ventured into the room. One of them, another 14-year-old girl from Joplin, spotted the weapon, pulled it out of the holster and pointed it at the victim in a joking manner, not realizing it was loaded. The gun discharged, and the Reppond girl was killed, according to the sheriff.

“With that particular incident, clearly the young lady had never been around firearms,” he said.

No criminal charges were filed with respect to the shooting, which investigators deemed accidental.

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