On April 24, two separate shooting incidents in the region left one person dead and another injured. The first happened early in the morning in Cando, N.D., about 125 miles northwest of Grand Forks. The other was that evening in Grand Forks.

In Cando, the teen victim died. In Grand Forks, the victim was relatively lucky – a leg wound and a trip to the hospital.

Police determined that both incidents were accidental, occurring while guns were being retrieved from vehicles.

Imagine if one of these life-altering, sad mishaps happened in your family, or to your child.

According to various gun-safety websites – including one maintained by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence – there are approximately 500 accidental shooting deaths across the U.S. each year.

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Young people most often are the victims. And making matters worse, gun sales have gone up during the pandemic, but youngsters have spent more time at home. CBS News last year reported that deadly unintentional shootings among children rose in the first few months of the pandemic.

Lt. Derik Zimmel, a spokesman for the Grand Forks Police Department, said negligent discharge incidents are not common in the city, but they happen “a few times a year at the least.” Most of the time, injuries do not occur, he said.

In hopes of convincing just one person to avoid an accidental shooting in the future, we offer this advice: Unload those guns. Don’t keep loaded firearms in homes or vehicles.

And here’s a free lesson from the Grand Forks Police Department:

1. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded.

2. Know your target and beyond.

3. Practice trigger control (don’t place your finger on the trigger until you are ready to fire).

4. Practice muzzle control (don’t point your firearm at anything you are not prepared to shoot).

Zimmel said those are the four core rules of gun safety taught to all of Grand Forks’ sworn officers.

Another idea: Consider purchasing and using gun locks, gun safes and lockable gun boxes, especially if children are present.

And one more: Take a firearms safety course or some sort of gun training.

“Oftentimes, we only consider such courses when someone is going to be hunting, and need the course to obtain a hunting license,” Zimmel said. “One does not need to be hunting to be occasionally handling firearms, and knowing how to do so safely is worth the time spent learning.”

Here in the Midwest, many of us grew up around guns. People here are more open to gun ownership, not only for hunting, but as a hobby and for protection. Guns may be part of the culture around these parts, but our attitude toward guns does not automatically equate to firearms know-how and safe handling practices.

Never forget the importance of gun safety measures and training.