Billings parent Justin Harriman had some free time on Tuesday morning (3/29) and decided to take his 3-year-old son to the park for some fresh air and fun father-son time. Imagine his shock when they stumbled upon a loaded handgun.

The gun was found in South Park.

I caught up with Harriman on the phone today (3/31) and he explained they were in the park around 11 am and were walking from one set of playground equipment to the next when another gentleman (also enjoying the park with his son) asked him, "Hey, do you know anything about guns?", pointing towards the weapon on the ground.

Credit: Glock
Credit: Glock

The firearm was found near the slide.

Harriman told me the fully loaded, one-in-the-chamber, semi-auto, .45 caliber handgun (which happened to be pink, similar to the image above) was found sitting in the woodchips near the bottom of a playground slide. He immediately called the Billings Police Department non-emergency line and an officer in the neighborhood responded within just a few minutes.

South Park, Billings MT - Image via Google Street View

No, he didn't keep the gun.

Some of Harriman's friends on social media were asking him if he kept the gun, and when I asked him about it, he said the thought never really crossed his mind. Instead, he used the alarming discovery as an important teaching moment with his child. He explained to his young son that if he or any of his friends ever find a weapon, they should absolutely not touch it. His kid was apparently a quick learner... when the BPD officer arrived to examine the firearm, the boy shouted at the cop, "Don't touch it!"

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Credit: Johnny Vincent, Townsquare Media
Credit: Johnny Vincent, Townsquare Media

BPD responds to a handful of "found gun" calls each year.

Billings Police Department Administrative Lieutenant  Matt Lennick told me it’s (thankfully) not common for the public to find guns lying around in Billings, although it does happen a few times each year. He said Harriman did the right thing by calling it in, giving the police the chance to run the serial number and trace the gun.

It's unknown at this time if the loaded weapon discovered in South Park this week was stolen or has been used to commit a crime. Depending on the circumstance, guns that are found are either returned to their legal owners (if stolen) or retained for evidence. Lieutenant Lemmick said some weapons may eventually get destroyed and in some cases, they may end up being sold during police evidence auctions. 

Got kids? Teach them what to do if they find a gun.

As a responsible gun owner and 2A advocate, this story is quite concerning. Especially since the gun was loaded and for all practical purposes, ready to fire. I shudder to think how bad this incident could have been if a kid picked up the pink handgun and accidentally killed another child or themselves.

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