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One year after son’s gun death, Guilford family vows to keep kids safe

GUILFORD - Thursday marked the one year anniversary of one of the hardest days in Guilford's history.

On the afternoon of January 31, 2018, 15 year old Guilford High School freshman Ethan Song told his mom, after school, he would be home for dinner and went off to his friend's home on Seaside Avenue. However, it was inside that home that Ethan accidentally shot himself to death in the head.

Ethan Song's mother, Kristin Song, recalls she thought it was odd that police showed up at their Guilford home that afternoon. "They came in and one of the officers couldn’t look at me and I thought 'oh no, this is not good,'" she said.

At Yale-New Haven Hospital that day, Kristin Song said the emergency room doctor was literally curled up in a corner as he told Kristin and he husband, Mike, that the youngest of their three children had died. Then she requested to see Ethan.

"I wanted to go hold his hand and tell him how loved and cherished he is and the doctor said 'you can’t. He’s not recognizable,'" she said.

She says she contemplated joining her youngest son, but "I’m glad I made the choice to not take my life."

With the passing of a year, the Song family, including their two other children, are channeling their grief in numerous ways, including rewriting a law with language they say would, if passed, hold the owner of the gun Ethan used responsible for his death.

"Ethan‘s Law says that, if you own a gun and have children in the house, you’ve got to keep the guns and ammunition away from them, that child, whether the gun is loaded or not loaded," said Mike Song, Ethan's father.

"Studies have shown that 73% of all children know where their parents guns are stored and that one out of three actually play with them," said Kristin Song.

The other teen in the home during the shooting was charged with manslaughter. But, that 15 year old's father - the owner of the gun - was cleared by the Waterbury State's Attorney, who found "there is no evidence that the gun used was loaded at the time it was stored within the closet." But, the Song family argues the guns, while locked, were stored in the same plastic container as the keys to those gun locks and ammunition.

"I think pushing for this (Ethan's Law) is what’s really going to save lives and what’s really going to make at least our town and our state better," said Emily Song, Ethan's sister, who is a UConn student.

Last April, the Song's filed a civil lawsuit against Dan Markle, the owner of the gun that killed Ethan Song. Several days ago the family offered to settle for $1 million. "We want people to stand up and be accountable when they have endangered a child and we felt that we really didn’t get that satisfaction from the State's Attorney," said Mike Song.

In addition to Ethan's Law, which they say has bipartisan support, gun safes are the best answer, according to Mike Song. "When you can take a safe like this and open it like that," he said, showing it open in three seconds. "You can save a lot of children’s lives."

Kristin Song found out after her son died that many of his peers knew that Ethan and some of his friends had been playing with guns for months before his death, but were afraid to report it, for fear of not being liked by Ethan and others. In response to that, she is now part of an effort with Guilford Public Schools to promote an app called Say Something, which was developed by Sandy Hook Promise.

"You can report whatever your concern is and it goes to a professional crisis center in Florida," Kristin Song said, noting that reporting through this app leaves you anonymous. The Song family, through the Ethan Miller Song Foundation, has also decided to raise money for gun safety and education initiatives.

"We have developed a Facebook page, called Ethan Song's Acts of Kindness and from there we have launched a road race, a bowl-a-thon and a spike ball tournament," said Mike Song.

To keep one's family from crumbling under the weight of their grief, Kristin Song says their family of four vowed to constantly communicate with one another.

Mike Song's advice to others in similar shoes: choose therapies that suit you.

"Running is therapy for me," he says. "Being around my family is therapy. Being in a social situation where we can make social change is therapy."

The Song's say Friday is when the real momentum could begin for Ethan‘s Law. The legislation will be raised by State Rep. Sean Scanlon (D-Guilford).

On the morning of the day he was killed, Ethan Song had his braces removed and Kristin Song said she remembers how happy Ethan was.

"He just started chatting about how he wanted to go to Rice University and then he wanted to join the military and he wanted to have seven children," she said.

And she remembers thinking this kid is really going to make an impact on this world.

"Unfortunately, he won’t be here to do that, but his name will definitely make an impact on this world," she said.

For more information, on Say Something, go here. 

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