The shooting death of a teenager in Westminster two years ago has prompted a gun safety movement aimed at saving lives.
Thirteen-year-old Vaughn Bigelow was killed in a senseless road-rage shooting in the parking lot of Children’s Dentistry, 5150 W. 80th Ave., on June 14, 2018. His mother Meghan Bigelow, his younger brother, Asa, and a bystander, John Gale, also were shot.
Vaughn’s dentist, Dr. Sean Whalen, who witnessed the aftermath and rendered aid, has helped form a locally based gun-lock safety program as a tribute to the teen — and with lifesaving intentions.
Big Waves Inc., which is distributing the gun locks, was formed by Vaughn’s parents, Vaughn Sr. and Meghan, to help grow the sport of water polo in Colorado. Vaughn Jr. was an enthusiastic player of the sport.
“They had been patients for a long time,” Whalen said of the Bigelows. “They started the Big Waves Foundation and asked me to be on the board.”
Whalen pondered ways to further contribute to Big Waves when a conversation about two months ago with a Westminster police officer sparked the gun-lock safety idea.
“We want people to be responsible gun owners,” Whalen said. “We are advocating for gun safety and safe gun storage.”
Jeremy Webster, 25, has pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, among other charges, in the death of Vaughn Jr. A review hearing is scheduled on Dec. 17 in Adams County District Court.
In April, in an unrelated case, a 3-year-old girl died after being shot by her 7-year-old brother in their Westminster home. Whalen believes the gun-lock program could help prevent such further tragedy.
“If you have a gun and you have children in the house, we will provide you with a free gun lock,” Whalen said.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and people are isolated, suicides and gun violence are feared to be on the rise, he said.
Anyone can acquire the free gun lock by going to the Big Waves website and filling out an online form. One lock per household, and the foundation does ask for a donation if possible.
Whalen grew up in Iowa, where he hunted.
“I grew up with guns, I’m very familiar with guns,” Whalen said. “I don’t have an issue with gun ownership. All we want to do is promote safe gun storage.”
With safety in mind, the Big Waves program ordered about two thousand gun locks from a New Jersey manufacturer. So far, the program, which started earlier this month, has shipped more than 100 locks to eight states, including Colorado.
“We just want to be a resource,” Whalen said. “Vaughn was killed right outside my office. I’m trying to make a little bit of a difference.”