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Three-year-old aims gun in kindergarten class

A teacher was recently shocked when she discovered a three-year-old boy was aiming a handgun at her as she taught a kindergarten class at the Manumalo Baptist Pre-School 

The Police Commissioner, Fuiavailili Egon Keil, confirmed on Friday that the firearm is now in the possession of Police, who confiscated the weapon after the incident occurred earlier this year. 

Manumalo Principal Tasi Fata told the Samoa Observer that one of her students had brought a handgun to the school but she declined to comment further on the incident.

“Of course he [the student] did bring a gun to school and the Police have already investigated the matter,” Principal Fata said. 

“The fact is I wasn’t here that day so I’m afraid to tell you further about it. I didn’t even know when the case was investigated here..

“It was [about two] months ago. I can’t really say anything more about it because the matter is with the Ministry of Police. That’s it. The case is over so I cannot say [...anything further] about it…when [Police] came here, I wasn’t here. I have another school at Poutasi”

But the Principal’s husband, who also works at the school, Reverend Pili Fata told the Samoa Observer that a boy in the school's K-3 class had pointed the handgun at his teacher who initially did not believe it to be a real weapon. 

The teacher initially told the boy to put away what she had presumed to be a toy. 

But when the child took aim a second time, the teacher intervened and it was discovered the weapon was real, Rev. Fata said. 

Fortunately, the gun wasn’t loaded.

“The gun looks like it [had] been used as a toy for a while. It’s an old gun and it looks like the boy [had] probably been playing with it, using it as a toy. But the gun is real. It's a real gun,” said Rev. Fata.

The incident happened about two months ago, shortly after schools across the country resumed after being shut down for the state of emergency. 

Police were called to the Manumalo campus to investigate and the gun, which is illegal in Samoa, was turned over to the police.

On Friday, Police Commissioner Fuiavailili said he forgot exactly what type of firearm was retrieved from the school.

“I don’t know what calibre it is but we do have that in our custody,” the Commissioner told the Observer.

“Of course we are looking at the firearm, who owned it, who had possession of it and who had care of it and all that. And I think we’ve pursued – and I’m guessing and I don’t like guessing so I don’t know all the particulars right now.”

In light of the Manumalo incident and, more recently, a raid in Faleula that led to the confiscation of 16 firearms, the Commissioner shared a gun safety message to families and children. 

“These are not toys. These things kill and they hurt people and will wreck families so if you have a gun at your home – turn them in,” he said. 

“We’ll be happy to come out and pick up the firearm. We won’t charge you if you call us and say: ‘Hey, this gun, whatever, has been lying around here and we want to get rid of it'”.

The firearms confiscated from Faleula include pistols of calibres including .22 and .38 pistols, a shotgun, a .22 rifle and two large barreled rifles. 

The most powerful of the guns was a 308 rifle that was enough “to blow you a mile away,” a Police source said on Monday. 

“[If we show up and find] this gun is illegal in Samoa or unregistered then [people will] get into big trouble, so if you own a firearm [make sure] you have it legally registered and that you have gone through our school,” Fuiavailili said.

He said that the process for owning a firearm in Samoa was rigorous and required all gun owners to complete a gun safety course, run by the police for between one and four weeks depending on the weapon. 

“We put you through hours of school,” he said. 

“We show you different types of firearms and we require you to have a place to lock the firearm away safely. We make sure you are very familiar with firearms and the laws around the firearm. There are a lot of little steps to take.

“There is a long checklist and everything needs to be ticked and after all these things have been done, [Police] sign and then [people’s] permit is approved. Of course, we look at their criminal history too. If they’ve got a pending criminal case or they’ve got a conviction, for the most part, they can’t have a gun.”

There are fewer than 2000 registered firearms in Samoa.

Only three types of guns are legal in Samoa: an air rifle, a .22 calibre rifle and a shotgun. All rifles, with only a few certain exceptions, are illegal. 

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