Free gunlocks offered on Friday

Published 10:28 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Most people cannot imagine the devastation that comes with a shooting death.

Whether it is a suicide or accident, however, too many people realize the reality of the heartache every year.

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office hopes to prevent such events from happening.

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The Sheriff’s Office will give away free gunlocks at the new Harris Teeter in North Suffolk, at 7386 Harbour Towne Parkway, on Friday from noon to 3 p.m. The giveaway program, called Project ChildSafe, is funded by a grant from the National Shooter Safety Foundation.

“If it just works one time, it’s been successful,” said Sheriff’s Deputy James Darden, who is on the department’s gun safety unit.

The gunlocks work by threading through the barrel or ammunition chamber of any gun and then locking with a key-operated padlock, rendering the gun useless until the lock is opened with the key and removed. They provide a safe, inexpensive way to store guns as an alternative to getting rid of them. Gun safes are expensive and heavy, and keeping guns unlocked is just not an option, especially with children in the home.

Sheriff’s Deputy Tommy Salmon recounted an incident at a gunlock giveaway when he offered a lock to a woman, and she began crying. She then told Salmon that her husband had recently committed suicide, and believed that he may have thought twice about his decision if he had had to take the time to remove a lock.

The locks also can prevent deadly accidents.

“The kids are out of school, and their curiosity is up,” said Eddie Harville, also a sheriff’s deputy. He noted the locks also make guns a poor target for thieves.

“We take the subject seriously,” Harville said. While giving away the locks, the deputies also take the time to interact with children, impressing upon them the dangers of handling guns if they are not trained to do so.

“This is a chance for us to interact positively with the community, when we’re not serving warrants or seeing them in court,” Harville said.

The sheriff’s department has given away about 20,000 of the locks since the program started in Suffolk in 2002. They are free to anybody who comes to Harris Teeter on Friday, and people can receive one lock for each weapon they own.

Although the department does the lock giveaways about four times a year, they are available for free year-round by calling the sheriff’s department at 514-7840. The department also takes guns surrendered by people who no longer want them.