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Johannesburg - An 8-year-old boy is lying critically injured in a Joburg hospital on Tuesday after he was shot by his father at a hunting expo in Midrand.
The boy was shot on Monday afternoon, allegedly while in a toilet cubicle at the Gallagher Convention Centre with his father and another child.
A report of negligent handling of a firearm has been opened at the Midrand police station and it is possible that the father could face more serious charges, depending on the outcome of a police investigation.
Police explained that the gun fired was the father’s personal firearm.
The family has declined to comment on the incident.
HuntEx attracts tens of thousands of gun, taxidermy and weapon enthusiasts from across the country each year.
The shooting happened just as visitors were leaving the expo at the close of day.
HuntEx2014 organiser Adriaan Woudstra said on-site paramedics were immediately summoned and the child was stabilised before being taken to a nearby hospital.
Woudstra said the family had asked for complete privacy over the shooting, and to not identify the hospital – known to The Star – where the child was being treated.
Police indicated that the child had been critically injured from the shooting but Woudstra said the boy’s father had said that he was “not in danger”.
“Initial feedback from the boy’s father indicates that the child is not in danger and that no vital organs were damaged,” said Woudstra.
Attempts to contact the hospital on Tuesday morning to determine the status of the child’s health were unsuccessful at the time of publication.
Woudstra expressed his shock at the incident and reiterated that strict firearms control measures were enforced at HuntEx2014.
He said the SAPS Central Firearm Registry (CFR) was present on the premises for the duration of the expo to ensure compliance with the Firearms Control Act.
“CFR personnel assisted the Midrand police with their investigation of the incident,” he said.
He said all firearms exhibitors complied with the legislation as laid down in the Firearms Control Act by applying for and being issued with temporary firearms exhibition permits from the CFR.
Constable Matome Tlamela of the Midrand SAPS said that while no one had been arrested for the shooting, a report of negligent handling of a firearm had been opened at the Midrand police station.
She said it would be up to investigators to determine whether any further charges would be opened against the father.
Provincial police spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Lungelo Dlamini said the man could face attempted murder charges but this would ultimately be up to State prosecutors assigned to the case.
“The unfortunate thing is that accidents do happen,” said Woudstra.
“This accident is just a further inspiration to me to promote responsible firearm ownership.”
The HuntEx website has numerous heavy firearms on display but says the expo also helps to promote other important issues, such as anti-poaching awareness, wildlife capturing, tracking and sourcing and proper firearm training.
The website also suggests the expo is a family-friendly affair, with a day-care facility that can look after children “from small babies to older teens”.