Police to distribute free gun locks | VailDaily.com

Police to distribute free gun locks

Tamara Miller
Vail Daily/Bret Hartman Eagle County law enforcement officials are handing out 5,000 free gun safety kits. The kits include a gun lock, like this one, that prevent accidental shootings.

Local law enforcement officials hope to make Eagle County a little safer for children by distributing 5,000 free firearm safety kits this year.

The safety kits, which include a gun lock, will be available throughout the year at various community events. Residents may also pick up the kits at their local law enforcement office. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, and the police departments in Vail, Eagle, Avon and Minturn are participating in the national program. The Super Wal-Mart in Avon also will have safety kits available.

Americans possess nearly 200 million firearms and about one-third of families with children keep at least one gun at home. Most recent statistics show that more than 1.6 million Coloradans own a gun. Statistics for Eagle County are not available. However, the popularity of target shooting and hunting in the area leads Avon Police Officer Chris Peck to believe plenty of local families keep a gun in their home.

“We are in the West,” he said. “I would think a fair amount of people have a gun.”

Local law enforcement officials can’t recall any accidental shooting that has occurred in Eagle County, but as recent as last month, a Colorado Springs boy died from a gunshot wound while in his home. Authorities believe his sister accidentally fired the gun. She has been charged with being a juvenile in possession of a handgun without her parents’ permission, the Colorado Springs Gazette reported.

The gun locks work by preventing children and adults from loading and firing the gun. They consist of a cable loop attached to a lock box. They can be used on most any type of gun, Peck said. Each kit contains instructions on how to properly use the gun lock.

On a semi-automatic handgun, for example, the cable is threaded through the slider and then locked at the bottom of the handle. The gun must be unloaded before it is locked.

A gun lock will stump a young child, but older children and adults likely could find a way to get it off, Peck said, which is why it’s still important to follow standard safety guidelines.

Don Foster, who leads the 4-H Club’s Whistling Bullets shooting club, said gun safety is a primary focus its members, who are 8 and older. He advises adults to store guns in a safe place and in a way that shows it isn’t loaded. Ammunition should be stored in a separate place.

Educating children about guns is the best way to prevent accidents, he said.

“I think it’s very important that kids see a gun and know what a gun is and are taught that it’s not a toy,” he said. “You don’t grab onto it and don’t play with it. Kids are just naturally curious about firearms and they want to know about firearms and that’s when they get into trouble.”

So far, the Minturn Police have handed out 150 safety kits. Some families have taken as many as six kits, which can even be used on BB guns.

“We have a lot of hunters in the community,” Chief Lorenzo Martinez said.

Residents may obtain as many gun lock kits as they need.

The nationwide program, called Project Childsafe, is being funded by a U.S. Department of Justice grant and the firearms industry. The goal of the program is to distribute 9 million safety kits to all 50 states and all five U.S. territories.

Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: tmiller@vaildaily.com or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.

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