TIOGA, La. (KALB) - Living in Louisiana, it's a common thing to see a gun or two. Whether they're for hunting, or a collector's item, or just for defense there's one in most homes.
But owning one involves incredible responsibility, and when they're mishandled it could lead to serious injury, or even worse, a death.
On Friday, we got a chance to hear the story of a gun owner who recently learned that lesson firsthand.
If you live around Tioga, you may have heard of Pastor Chad Stecker. Or, maybe you've heard of his nickname.
"One of the things that they would tell me was that I was the ‘Packing Preacher’," said Stecker.
Stecker and his family have been in Central Louisiana for four years now, and in that time he's picked up a few things.
"Throughout our four years, I've learned more about firearms, about all kind of things that are important down here," said Stecker.
He’s acquired a few guns in that time, and when his dad came to visit for the holidays, Stecker was eager to show him the latest one. But that’s when trouble happened.
"I missed a safety step,” said Stecker. “I've never messed up until that point, and I ended up shooting my left hand."
His family immediately jumped to action, calling the police and stopping the blood until the ambulance arrived.
"My dad instinctively, with his military experience, thought in areas that I couldn't in that moment,” explained Stecker. “He instantly grabbed my hand, applied pressure, and held it above my heart, which gave me more time."
So is this a common incident? Lieutenant Lyndal Brown with the Rapides Parish Sheriff's Office said unfortunately it is.
"Louisiana leads the nation and has for several years in firearms related accidents and I say accidents, they're not actually accidents,” said Lt. Brown. “The gun does not go off accidentally."
He leaves a few helpful tips for gun owners to keep in mind.
"The muzzle of the barrel should never point at something that you don't intend to shoot or kill, always keep your finger off the trigger until you're ready to fire,” explained Lt. Brown. “Even if you've unloaded it, put it away, always check it when you pick it up and intend to handle it. Always make sure it is unloaded."
Ultimately, Stecker came away with nerve damage and a metal rod through one of his fingers; but also with a tip of his own.
"It really wasn't the right time to do that with my father,” said Stecker. “I think if I’ve learned anything, I think the most important step that I missed was to not have the situational awareness. To not be able to look at everything going on and say, 'let's just do this another time.'"
And he holds close to the fact, it could've been a lot worse.
"I can honestly say I am here because of my family,” expressed Stecker. “And I’m more grateful to look at my daughters, and I’m more grateful to look at my sons, and to hold my wife's hand and to give my father a hug than ever before."