Take advantage of gun lock program

Other Editors

Minnesotans can get simple-to-use devices at no cost under a state program that can protect kids and adults.

A device that’s free, easy to use and could save a life. It’s hard to imagine why anyone wouldn’t take advantage of innovative, ongoing programs that deliver gun locks straight to Minnesotans’ homes at no cost.

The throngs who attended the State Fair this year may already have one or more on hand. To kick off the Safe and Secure Minnesota campaign, the state Departments of Public Safety and Natural Resources gave away more than 20,000 gun locks at last summer’s agricultural showcase.

What Minnesotans may not realize is that this gubernatorial initiative, paid for with $1 million in American Rescue Plan dollars, didn’t end with the fair’s closure on Labor Day. Individuals can still request up to three free gun locks at SafeAndSecureMN.org, and the devices will be delivered at no cost.

This worthy campaign complements efforts from the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs (MDVA), which has teamed up with the federal veterans’ health care system to also provide gun locks at no charge. Since 2021, MDVA has distributed more than 20,000 gun locks. Requests are simple and confidential. Just email SuicidePrevention.MDVA@state.mn.us with your name and address. Personal information will not be shared, according to state officials.

Those who aren’t veterans can also request locks from MDVA. Although the program focuses on military men and women, “We will send a gunlock to anyone who requests one,” MDVA said in a statement. “People may also request more than one. Some request them for a group. We have given away as many as 100 at a time to someone on behalf of a group.”

In addition, a supply has been sent to all 87 Minnesota County Veterans Service Offices to distribute within their communities.

The looming year’s end often prompts plans to make the coming year healthier. Gun locks offer a straightforward way to accomplish that resolution and are essential to responsible firearm storage.

The devices generally look like loops with a keyed lock. One end is typically threaded through an unloaded gun’s interior, then inserted into the lock (for a video installation guide, go to tinyurl.com/MNGunlocksHowTo). “The trigger shouldn’t engage if you’ve locked the gun properly,” according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Installing a lock can prevent accidental injuries and deaths if a child finds a gun, for example. They also can serve as a theft deterrent or prevent an argument from dangerously escalating. In addition, while gun locks can be removed quickly, the delay may be just enough time for someone considering hurting themselves or others to take a breath and step back.

Grim statistics illustrate the need for this program and these devices. For all the headlines generated by gun crimes, suicides account for the majority of U.S. gun deaths. “In 2020, 54% of all gun-related deaths were suicides (24,292), while 43% were murders,” according to a Pew Research Center analysis. (The rest were unintentional deaths, involved law enforcement or were undetermined.)

Of the 513 firearm-related deaths in Minnesota in 2020, 354 were suicides and 138 were homicides, the Department of Public Safety reports.

Gun locks are part of a layered approach to reducing gun injury risk in households with firearms. Keeping them unloaded and out of children’s reach remains especially important.

State officials say they’ll order more gun locks to meet demand. Responsible gun owners should recognize this program’s value and take advantage of it.

— Minneapolis Star Tribune


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