LITTLE RIVER, SC (WMBF) - People who loved 12-year-old Mason Powell, who was accidentally shot by an 11 year old in Florence County, mourned his death at his funeral Saturday morning, a situation one non-profit in Horry County is dedicated to preventing after the founder had to do the same for her own 11-year-old son in 2010.
"The ages of the children in the accident this week were the same as Matthew and his friend and something about it just has really struck me this week and just truly broken my heart for this family in a way a story truly has not done in a long time," said Mylissa Bellamy, of The Matthew Bellamy Project.
Bellamy said her son, Matthew, loved sports and outdoor activities. He hunted with his father and other family members.
"Grew up around guns, had been taught gun safety," she said. "But in his situation, it was two boys who were 11 and 12 and didn't really understand the concept of no adults were around and there were things that they shouldn't do."
She said at home, the guns were always locked away, but she never thought to ask the parents of Matthew's friends about their own gun safety practices.
"It should just be a casual conversation and shouldn't be offensive," Bellamy said. "Ultimately, both parties should be concerned about the safety of the children."
However, Bellamy learned some gun owners don't always keep guns where children can't access them after her own son died. She said he was at a friend's house when that friend picked up an unsecured gun in a room, tried showing it to him and accidentally shot and killed him.
"There's a fine balance between your personal safety which is something people bring up to us a lot and keeping your kids safe, but there are ways to balance that," she said.
Even if guns are kept away from younger children, Bellamy has found out through her work with The Matthew Bellamy Project that some families trust their preteens with guns.
"While kids may be able to handle a gun with an adult at 11, 12, 13 years old when they get in a situation when no adult is around, they're going to act differently," she said.
South Carolina doesn't have a statute regulating gun storage around minors. Even if charges had been applicable, Bellamy said that wouldn't have been productive and also still wouldn't have brought back Matthew.
"Putting both families through the process of charges and court dates, it wasn't going to accomplish anything," she said. "It wasn't going to do any good to either family."
Bellamy did take action after Matthew's death by creating The Matthew Bellamy Project, which gives away hundreds of gun locks each year and offers free gun safety classes for children.
She also goes to local schools to educate students about the steps they should take if they find a gun.
She said a mom told her last year about a potentially dangerous situation that was resolved safely because of The Matthew Bellamy Project.
"Her child did find a gun and came and told her and related it back to hearing through us tell Matthew's story and hearing us teach them the four steps of stop, don't touch, run away, tell a grown up," she said. "The child knew what to do."
Anyone interested in getting a free gun lock or registering for a class can find more details here: http://http://thematthewbellamyproject.com/
"Matthew was a very giving child. He was very unselfish. I think he would be pleased what has lived on far beyond his little 11 years on earth," Bellamy said.