High school students attending Zachary Career and Technical Center were treated to a gun safety presentation on Dec. 2 by the Louisiana Law Enforcement for Gun Safety.

The organization includes several law enforcement agencies from around the state that partnered in 2013 in response to an alarmingly high rate of accidental firearm injuries and deaths among children and teens in Louisiana.

Sgt. Brian Firmin, of the Baton Rouge Constable’s Office, led the demonstration by explaining the distinguishing characteristics between real and toy handguns. He showed the students examples of the two, then described the color, weight, material, markings and sizes of several models of firearms.

Students were asked to identify whether they were real or fake.

According to the Law Enforcement for Gun Safety, Louisiana ranks second in the nation in accidental firearm injuries and deaths. Childhood firearm-related deaths rank third among causes of death, with vehicular accidents and cancer ranking higher.

Firmin said the mission of the LLEGS program is to educate youth about gun safety and awareness in an effort to reduce the risks of these types of accidents.

“Having an open dialogue creates an opportunity for children and teens to ask questions about handguns and their effects. Law enforcement can then dispel any unrealistic beliefs they may have about the guns,” Firmin explained.

He told the Zachary students about a recent incident that occurred in the north Baton Rouge Parish area of Hooper and Plank roads that ended in a young man’s death because he was told a gun was not loaded. The man fired it toward his own face and head.

“He lived for about 15 seconds,” said Firmin. “You must always treat all guns as if they are loaded, and never trust a friend or family member who says one is not. It’s all about making the right decisions.”

Other objectives of the program include identifying hazards of unsecured firearms, bringing awareness to the necessity of safely maintaining firearms and illustrating the destructive force of guns.

A ballistics tank is used during the gun safety presentation and is transported around to area schools to demonstrate the visual effects a firearm can have when fired.

On Wednesday, Firmin shot a .357 caliber handgun at a watermelon for the students, which came apart in the blink of an eye.

Students were shown what the bullet looked like before and after the gun was fired.

Other topics Firmin discussed included age of culpability, law of principle, the dangers of brandishing a gun and the dangers of buying a gun off the street.

“The damage created by a bullet is permanent and irreparable,” Firmin said after firing at the watermelon. “There is no reset button. Once you fire a gun, you cannot take it back.”

LLEGS includes the U.S. Attorney’s Offices for the Middle, Eastern and Western Districts of Louisiana, the Baton Rouge City Constable’s Office, Louisiana Department of Corrections, Louisiana Sheriff’s Association, Louisiana Association of Chiefs of Police, Louisiana City Marshals and City Constables Association, Louisiana District Attorneys Association, Louisiana State Police and the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office.