Retired police officer Lawrence 'Whitey' Knannlein stands with his grandson, Mason. The 11-year-old found a loaded handgun Wednesday near his North Lockwood Avenue home. He told a neighbor and stayed with the gun until police arrived. Mr. Knannlein has been teaching his grandson about gun safety since the boy was 7. 'I'm very proud of him,' Mr. Knannlein said.
The Blade/Lori King
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The whitish top on the handgun lying in the grass in front of a West Toledo home was what caught Mason Knannlein's eye, but the 11-year-old didn't do what he suspects most boys would when making such a find: pick it up.
Instead, Mason shouted to his next-door neighbor, in whose yard in the 4200 block of North Lockwood Avenue he had found the weapon, to call police while he waited nearby to make sure nobody else touched it, either.
"It was a really nice gun," said Mason, whose family includes several law-enforcement officers and who has been learning to shoot for four years.
But handling the 40-caliber Smith & Wesson could have had tragic results, said Mason's mother, Angie Knannlein. The gun had a round in i ts chamber and no external safety device, ready to fire if the trigger were tripped. Ten more bullets were in its magazine.
"There's every chance it would have gone off. And there are kids in all the neighborhood houses around here," she said. "Somebody could have been killed, or at least hurt."
"He quite possibly could have saved somebody's life," agreed Lori Knannlein, Mason's aunt and a Lucas County sheriff's deputy who lives near Mason's house. He called her, and she arrived before
Toledo police did.
Where the gun came from, though, was a mystery.
The 40-caliber Smith & Wesson had a round in the chamber but no external safety device. The magazine held 10 more bullets.
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Lori Knannlein said it was obvious to her the weapon, which had not been reported stolen, was thrown by someone to the spot where it was found, because of dirt and grass smudges on it.
The deputy also said there had been a foot pursuit in the neighborhood the night before, stemming from a burglary report. But she couldn't conclusively link the gun to that incident, and said it seemed unlikely that it could have lain where it did for most of a day before being found last Wednesday.
A Toledo police found-property report contained no further details.
Mason said he learned two rules about "found" guns from his grandfather, Lawrence "Whitey" Knannlein, a retired Toledo police officer: Tell an adult, and don't leave it unattended. Mr. Knannlein said his second rule actually was "don't touch it," but Mason followed that one too.
"I'm very proud of him. He did just the right thing," Mason's grandfather said.
For his actions, Mason is expected to receive a junior safety award from Toledo City Council on Nov. 9, Mason's family said.
The Eddie Eagle GunSafe program by the National Rifle Association disagrees with what Mason did in one regard: It advises children who find guns to "leave the area" along with "don't touch" and "tell an adult."
But Mason said he was worried another child might find it before authorities arrived if he walked away.
Mr. Knannlein said his grandson has been learning about guns and gun safety he was 7, and the boy has been very safety-conscious.
"He really loves to shoot. He fishes with his Dad, and he hunts and shoots with me," Mr. Knannlein said.
A child without that background could have picked up the weapon and accidentally fired it, said the grandfather, who teaches a concealed-carry course at Owens Community College.
"Other kids would have picked it up," Mason agreed. "They might have brought it to school."
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