NORFOLK, VA—Gun owners nationwide are applauding the patriotic, though accidental, exercise of Second Amendment rights by 8-year-old Timothy Cummings Tuesday.

Timothy Cummings

"Timothy is a symbol of American heroism," said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre from Cummings' bedside at Norfolk General Hospital, where the boy is in serious but stable condition from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. "While praying for his recovery, we should all thank God that his inalienable right to keep and bear arms has not been infringed."

The incident occurred shortly after Cummings returned from school and found that his parents were absent from the house. Displaying what Second Amendment-rights groups are calling "good old-fashioned American ingenuity," Cummings placed a pair of phone books on a stool to retrieve his father's loaded .38-caliber revolver from its hiding place on a closet shelf. After a preliminary backyard investigation of his constitutional rights claimed the life of Pepper, the family's cocker spaniel, Cummings fell on the weapon, causing it to discharge into his left thigh.

"The framers of the Constitution would be so proud of what my boy did yesterday," said Cummings' father Randall, 44, who originally purchased the handgun for home defense. "If 8-year-old boys discharging loaded firearms into their own legs isn't necessary to the maintenance of a well-regulated militia, I don't know what is."

Doctors worked for six hours to reconstruct Timothy Cummings' femur, which shattered from the impact of the high-velocity teflon-coated slugs, and to graft his remaining muscular and circulatory tissue over the fist-sized exit wound below his left buttock. Although the boy lost a great deal of blood, attending physicians say they are confident that he will recover sufficiently to resume active use of firearms, though his chances of walking again are slim.

"For years, the people who want to take away our freedoms have said that we're not smart enough or responsible enough to own handguns," Randall added. "Timothy is proof that even a child is capable of using a handgun for its intended purpose."

NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre praising Cummings' "commitment to the American way."

Gun owners nationwide have flooded Cummings' hospital room with flowers, letters of congratulations and invitations to "come shooting." Area firearms enthusiast and family friend Lloyd Stone showed his support by donating 18 inches of vascular material to help rebuild Cummings' left femoral artery.

"He may be just a boy, but this use of the Second Amendment was a man-sized undertaking," Stone said. "Timothy may need a wheelchair for the rest of his life, but with every step he doesn't take, he'll realize what the Constitution really means."

Although Cummings has yet to deliver an official statement on the incident, he regained consciousness long enough to discuss his immediate plans.

"Please, I want to run and play again," Cummings told doctors Tuesday night. "My leg hurts bad. Please make it stop."

Although gun-control advocates have criticized the boy's gun use, the NRA was quick to respond, calling Cummings' use of much-protested, teflon-coated "cop-killer" bullets "a victory for America."

"Timothy should be held up as an example to people who think we don't need these bullets—or fully automatic assault weapons, or concealable handguns which are impervious to metal detectors, for that matter," said NRA president Charlton Heston, who plans to congratulate Cummings in person as soon as he is through lobbying for Senate repeal of recently passed legislation mandating background checks for gun buyers.

"If we ban teflon-coated bullets, automatic weapons would be next," Heston said. "Then all handguns. Next thing you know, the law would deny our citizens' children the personal freedom to blow holes through their own legs."

NRA lobbyist Tom Korologos agreed. "Timothy's heroic accident happened because we live in the greatest country in the world," he said. "Had he grown up in Japan, England or Russia, he wouldn't be where he is today."

"Restrictive laws would have kept him 'safe' at home—and they would have justified it by telling us it was for his own good," Korologos added. "That's not the type of country I'd want my children to grow up walking normally in."

"Timothy is a shining example to gun-owning families everywhere," Cummings' mother Suzanne told reporters. "I am proud that my boy has followed in the footsteps of the many thousands of patriotic children who have already demonstrated their commitment of the U.S. Constitution in this same way."