Utah woman who accidentally shot, killed teen shares gun safety warning

U.S. & World

OGDEN, Utah (CNN) — It’s something Kayleen Richins and her family had done time and time again — head out to the range and do some target shooting.

However, on that particular day last September, there wasn’t a backstop.

One of the bullets from Richins’ gun hurdled 100 yards into the car of the Kempke family, where 14-year-old Zack Kempke was hit in the head and killed.

“Never in my life did I think I would be in this position,” Richins said.

She is trying her hardest to make sure the loss of Zack Kempke wasn’t all for nothing.

“You always think, ‘Oh, this will never happen to me,'” Richins said.

What happened to her family, to Zack’s family, doesn’t have to happen to others.

Richins, her husband and children were on the Monte Cristo Range, near Dairy Ridge, Utah.

“After being up there for a while, we decided to pull out the guns and do some target shooting,” Richins said.

It’s something they had done many times before.

Richins’ family was in a deeply wooded area where it can be tough to tell what’s off in the distance.

Kempke was in the back seat of a car, hundreds of yards away.

Richins fired off the last few rounds from a hunting rifle.

“And then, when we took our hearing protection off, we heard the screaming,” Richins said.

Zack had been struck in the head, dying instantly.

Richins didn’t know what had happened until the Kempke’s Jeep pulled around the bend.

“We ran up the hill to see if we could do something to help and there was nothing that we could do,” she said.

Today, Richins shares that painful story and her message with as many people as possible.

“It just takes a momentary lapse in judgment and it shatters everything,” she said.

Her family has created a web page, nobackstopnoshot.com.

On it is a presentation Richins teaches children and a video telling her story.

“Never put yourself in my shoes,” she said. “Never put another family in the victim’s shoes. Always double-check.”

Between her, her four children and her husband and the Kempke family, that one moment has impacted a lot of people.

“We don’t want people feeling sorry for us,” Richens said. “People are entitled to whatever emotions they are feeling. What matters is getting our message out.”

Richins said this kind of tragic loss doesn’t have to happen.

“There is no excuse,” she said.

Richins warns shooters to always have a backstop and never assume an area is safe because someone has shot there before.

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