Politicians have made gun safety a major issue, and now, a county in Maryland is taking a novel approach to improve firearm safety inside the home. Anne Arundel County is giving away free gun locks inside its libraries, something that’s never been done before in Maryland.
The county’s 4,500 gun locks were paid for by a grant to the Anne Arundel County Health Department through the Governor’s Office of Crime, Prevention, and Youth Victim Services. So far, a few hundred can be found at two libraries in Annapolis and one in Glen Burnie. The county government hopes that the demand will be high enough that more libraries around the county will also start giving them out.
“We thought it was important to have them available in communities and in our libraries,” County Executive Steuart Pittman said. “Anybody who is 18 or older can get one or two locks and take them home and use them.”
He promised no one would ask any questions.
“An estimated 54% of gun owners don’t lock their guns securely,” Pittman said. He claimed that, on average, almost one child a day in the U.S. unintentionally shoots themselves with an unsecured gun found around the house. And he said the locks help prevent suicides.
Joining Pittman was Anne Arundel County Public Schools Superintendent Mark Bedell, who said he worries about gun violence and youths’ access to guns is one of the unpredictable things that keep him up at night. He urged parents to do their part to keep guns in the house more secure.
“We don’t want to be the next school district that’s involved in unfortunate fatalities because we’re not protecting our weapons and making sure that we keep them out of the hands of our students,” Bedell said.
He cited the recent shooting of a teacher by a six-year-old in Newport News, Virginia, who used a gun his parents had at home. That child’s parents have maintained that the weapon was secured at home but have since been charged with child neglect.
“It’s becoming more and more of a barrier for us as educators to really feel like we can maintain safe learning environments, not only for our students but for the educators that work within our systems,” Bedell said.
Anne Arundel County Deputy Police Chief Katie Roberts used a simulated gun used in training to demonstrate how the lock works. She only needed a few seconds to pop the magazine out and run part of the lock down the chamber and through the bottom before locking it with a key.
But leaders who spoke at the event also admitted this initiative might help a little, but it is far from what anyone would see as a solution. Bedell noted it’s just as easy for a student to buy a gun off the street as it is to take one from home.
The health department in St. Mary’s County is also receiving a grant to buy gun locks. Beyond Maryland, similar giveaways are being done at a children’s hospital in St. Louis and a demonstration and giveaway at a library in Greenville, Texas.
Even Pittman could only express optimism that there would be demand for the locks but stopped short of making any guarantees.
“We’ll find out what the demand is once the program starts by providing them for free,” Pittman said. “But we do know that more than half of guns are not secured, so there’s plenty of unsecured guns out there that could use them.”
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