Ramsey County authorities said Wednesday that they are re-energizing a free gun lock program in light of children spending more time at home during summer vacation and ongoing worries about neighborhood gun violence.
Gun locks are available at various places around the county.
“If a youngster mistakenly obtains a handgun, a gun lock can mean the difference between life and death,” said Sara Hollie, director of the St. Paul-Ramsey County Public Health Department.
According to Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, there are regular but avoidable killings of children with unsecured weapons around the country. After a 3-year-old kid was gravely injured in a gunshot and a pistol was discovered in the family’s Minneapolis home, prosecutors in Hennepin County charged his parents with child endangerment.
Since 2016, the Ramsey County attorney’s office has started supporting gun locks that are available to community members. Choi said he wants to see tragedies stopped before they become charges prosecuted by his agency.
The cable locks are suitable for securing a pistol, rifle, or shotgun. They’re available at 13 sites — the county attorney’s office distributed locks for the first time on Wednesday to county service centers in St. Paul, Roseville, and Maplewood; they’ve stopped delivering to a handful of low-demand areas. They’re adding 1,000 more locks to the mix.
The number of licences to carry a handgun issued in the state established a new high last year and in 2020.
“Everyone who chooses to carry a handgun has a duty to prevent senseless deaths in their own homes and to decrease the ways they contribute to other gun violence in our community,” stated Trista MatasCastillo, Ramsey County Board Chairwoman.
MatasCastillo, Choi, and Hollie came out against federal and state legislation that would extend background checks and invest in violence prevention and mental health services on Wednesday.
“We’ve watched each new tragedy throughout the country in horror for the time and then moved on,” MatasCastillo said. “Some of us even forgot about the death and injuries that occurred less than a year ago right here in St. Paul at the Seventh Street Truck Park mass shooting.” “We owe it to the victims and survivors of these tragedies not to let it happen again, and we owe it to them to act immediately.”
According to the police department, 112 individuals have been injured or died in gun assaults in St. Paul this year, compared to 95 at the same time last year.
People have been grateful for the availability of gun locks at the Hallie Q. Brown Center in St. Paul, one of the distribution sites, according to Jonathan Palmer, the center’s executive director.
Palmer stated, “This is a significant endeavor.” “We don’t have as many people picking them up as we did when it initially started, but we do get a few individuals every month.”
The Ramsey County Gun Safety Initiative is based on the philosophy of prevention. “There are no questions asked” while picking up a gun lock at the Ramsey County sites, according to Hollie.
“It’s hardly surprising that recent research that featured interviews of gun-owning parents… revealed that 73 percent of youngsters under the age of 10 knew exactly where their parents had hidden their firearms,” Hollie added. “Education is critical in preventing youngsters from gaining access to unsecured firearms.”
The public health agency strives to educate individuals about gun safety in households with children, such as keeping weapons locked up and secured and storing ammunition separately.