(photo by Tim Jaynes, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Free firearm locks donated by Project HomeSafe were distributed from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at the Sikeston Wal-Mart in an effort to increase gun safety awareness.
"If one of these locks can prevent one death or injury, then the entire funding for the project was worth it," said Dan Fasy, Project HomeSafe representative.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation created Project HomeSafe through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice and funding from NSSF members, the manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers and retailers of shooting sports equipment.
Missouri Department of Conservation agents, Conservation Federation of Missouri, hunter education instructors and state's law enforcement officials were on hand to pass out the firearm locks Wednesday.
Gun owner Sherri Bracey, who has two sons and one daughter, said she believes in the importance of gun safety. "My fiance and I both have handguns," Bracey said. "We think it's definitely a good idea to put locks on guns."
Charles Kohlbaker agreed. With 18 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, he couldn't pass up the free lock for his gun.
"Most of the feedback from the public has been positive," Fasy said. "We're not forcing the locks on anybody and there are no obligations."
The firearm locks consist of vinyl-covered steel cables with one end permanently secured to a keyed padlock. Firearms must be unloaded before the locks can be engaged. The cable passes through the chamber or action, making it impossible to load the firearm.
The locks fit 90 percent of guns, Facy stated. Among the types of firearms the locks work with are autoloading pistols, revolvers, autoloading and pump-action shotguns and bolt action rifles.
Fasy said learning to use the locks takes only a few minutes. The locking devices can be detached within a matter of seconds, he said.
According to the Department of Justice Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, firearms are the fourth leading cause of accidental deaths among children ages 5 to 14. The Department of Justice also reports that about one-third of the deaths resulting from accidental shooting could be prevented by a firearm safety device, such as a trigger lock.
"The gun locks are primarily for the safety of the home, especially since most accidents happen in the home," Scott County Conservation Agent Leother Branch said. "All firearms should be cased, unloaded and locked. Make sure your kids know the importance of gun safety."
Parents also need to advise their kids to notify an adult immediately if they see their friends or family members, like cousins, playing with firearms, Branch said. If parents teach their children to be safe, then the children will teach other children, he explained.
Project HomeSafe buses are expected to travel to approximately 30 cities across Missouri. The tour features a 16-foot mobile classroom truck and displays of safe firearm storage equipment. Fasy said a safety video is available to watch, if visitors are interested, and if he has the appropriate electrical setup.
The gun locks have been so successful in Missouri that Project HomeSafe had to bring in a second truck because they were running out of gun locks, he said. Fasy said between 300 and 500 locks are given away at each location.
Branch reminds the public of a reason they should use firearm locks. "It only takes three seconds to lock a gun," he said. "But death lasts forever."
Project HomeSafe will visit from noon to 5 p.m. June 3 at the Wal-Mart in Cape Girardeau. Visit www.confedmo.com and click on keyword "News" to view the HomeSafe Tour schedule.