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12-year-old boy's death spurs pursuit of gun safety laws

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WYMT/WSAZ) -- What started off as a relaxing Labor Day holiday ended in a horrific life-changing event for one family.

A 12-year-old boy was found dead near his home in Wayne County, West Virginia with a gunshot wound to the head, the gun laying nearby. Tyler Blankenship took the gun from a family member's home; it was accessible and loaded.

His family is pushing for new laws to make sure this never happens again.

Tyler's family was shocked to discover West Virginia doesn't have a law forcing gun owners to secure their guns. So, they're pushing for one called Tyler's Law, hoping their son's death will save a life.

“He was always joking around," said Tyler's mother Angela Leedy. "We'd always get in water fights. He'd jump out and scare me and think that was the funniest thing.”

Like many mothers, Leedy can't stop raving about how wonderful her son was. Tyler was the apple of his mother's eye -- right down to the last moment she spent with him.

“He smiled and I asked him how his day went, and he loved his hair," Leedy said. "He always liked his hair. He asked how I liked his hair and I said, "It looks good.' ”

Several hours later, Tyler was found dead from the gunshot. Rumors immediately started swirling that Tyler committed suicide -- the victim of bullying at school.

“Did he ever complain about being bullied or about kids picking on him?” WSAZ.com's Carrie Cline asked.

“No," Leedy responded. "He wanted to go to school. I had to make him stay home when he was sick because he wanted to go to school. If you're bullied, you don't want to go to school. He wasn't depressed, showed no signs of suicide. He finished his homework Friday. If he was feeling that way, he wouldn't care about anything.”

“We have our own theory about it, and we'd like the detectives to look into it,” said Fred Leedy, Tyler’s stepfather.

The Leedys believe it was an accident -- a child playing with a loaded gun and an accidental shooting. Regardless of what led to Tyler's death, there's no disputing the fact that he was able to gain easy access to a loaded gun at a family member's home.

That's why the Leedys have started a petition and crusade for Tyler's Law -- to force gun owners to lock their guns.

“We're not against guns," Fred Leedy said. "We just want people to be safe. Lock up your guns. Even if you teach your kids not to touch guns, kids will be kids. Don't give them a chance to make the same mistake Tyler made."

Tyler's biological father, James Staley, is a gun advocate who routinely took Tyler hunting. But, he always practiced safety first and is pleading for others to do the same.

“If that's what it would take and we could at least save one life to prevent someone from going through something like this,” Staley said.

The Leedys plan to present their petition to U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., hoping for a change.

We spoke with family members of the home where Tyler took the gun. They said they were concerned about crime, and the gun was out for protection.

You can sign the petition for Tyler's Law online here:
http://www.causes.com/actions/1684410


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