Lock it up for safety

Published 10:09 pm Tuesday, June 16, 2009

With its long history of hunting and the prevalence of firearms enthusiasts of all types, Suffolk has its share of guns sitting in drawers and shoeboxes and hidden in cabinets and on closet shelves behind whatever items seem least likely to be of interest to curious children.

Most parents are aware of the dangers of leaving loaded weapons around the house where they can be easily found. Sadly, though, every year there is news of some child finding a handgun, shotgun or rifle at home, wanting to show it off to friends and accidentally shooting someone in the process.

Unintentional injuries from firearms represent less than 2 percent of all firearms-related deaths in America each year, according to the National Center for Child Death Review Policy and Practice, headquartered at the Michigan Public Health Institute. But children account for more than half of those deaths.

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For children, knowledge of a hidden gun in the house can turn into a tantalizing challenge to find the weapon and play with it — or use it to impress their friends. And kids at home during the summertime often have many hours of unsupervised time to conduct their searches. As it turns out, good hiding places are sometimes not good enough.

That’s where gunlocks come into play.

The Suffolk Sheriff’s Office has given away about 20,000 of the simple safety devices since 2002, and deputies will be at Harris Teeter in North Suffolk on Friday to give away more. That’s 20,000 weapons in the city that are safe from all but the most determined little hands.

As residents of a close-knit Portsmouth neighborhood learned in March — when David “Turtle” Gardner Jr. was accidentally shot – and later died – while a gun was being handled in a Simonsdale home while parents were away — gun-related accidents happen in the blink of an eye and are often fatal, ending one life and changing others forever.

If you have a firearm in your home — and especially if you ever have children there — you owe it to yourself and to them to make sure you’ve got a gunlock. They’re free from the Sheriff’s Office. Go get one on Friday.