There’s always a need for gun safety with the number of firearms rising

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Activist Andrew Holmes hands out gun locks to drivers to raise awareness of gun safety and to prevent minors from handling guns, near the corner of East 95th Street and South Oglesby Avenue.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Our nation would be a much safer place with fewer guns.

But the reality is, the number of firearms keeps growing and Americans continue to buy guns — keeping the threat of firearm-related deaths looming.

The number of Illinois residents who applied for Firearm Owner Identification cards soared 190% from nearly 167,000 in 2017 to more than 483,000 in 2020, according to the Illinois State Police.  

Across the country, 7.5 million adults became new gun owners between January 2019 and April 2021, researchers at Northeastern and Harvard universities found.

Editorial

Editorial

Stricter gun laws and confiscation of illegal deadly weapons are necessities to curb the shootings that claim tens of thousands of lives each year — hundreds in Chicago alone — and leave other victims reeling from their physical and emotional wounds. 

Educating gun owners is also imperative in preventing these shootings, as community activist and south suburban Dolton trustee Andrew Holmes is aiming to do by handing out 1,000 complimentary gun safety cable locks. Holmes has also put up a billboard at 95th Street and Oglesby Avenue that urges gun owners to keep their weapons locked to keep children safe and he plans to put up a few more, the Sun-Times’ Matthew Hendrickson reported earlier this week.

Holmes isn’t the only individual, here or elsewhere, to embark on a campaign reminding gun owners of their responsibilities. The Cook County sheriff’s office in November partnered with four children’s hospitals to distribute gun locks for free and created a video on how to use a gun lock. Project ChildSafe also continually works with police departments across the country to pass out free safety kits that include cable-style gun locks and safety instructions. 

Holmes also is no stranger to gun safety lock giveaways. He passed out 400 in the city a little less than a year ago, and after a 3-year-old boy accidentally shot his mother in the backseat of a car in Dolton in May, Holmes doled out 300 gun safety locks in the south suburb.  

There are laws on the books in Chicago, Cook County and the state concerning unlocked weapons in the presence of young adults and minors. Federal legislation also requires gun dealers and manufacturers to sell their merchandise with a “secure gun storage or safety device.” Still, many gun owners are unaware of the rules they have to follow. When so many lives are at stake and gun violence has surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of the deaths of American children, there is no such thing as too much information surrounding gun safety.

A 2005 Journal of the American Medical Association study found that households that locked both their firearms and ammunition reduced unintentional firearm injuries among children by 85%, the gun violence prevention organization Everytown for Gun Safety noted in a recent report.

More recently in 2019, however, the director of research at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center told the Guns & America project that the cable-style gun locks that have been given away for free are more of a temporary fix.

As children grow up and become teens, they can easily learn how to dismantle these “flimsy” locks, warned Deborah Azrael, who participated in the recent Northeastern and Harvard study, noted above, on American gun ownership.

Azrael’s disclaimer simply denotes the complexity of gun safety and how we must keep pressing forward to find new solutions to make guns less accessible to those of all ages who want to harm themselves and others.

But if the free cable-style gun locks Holmes and others are passing out can curb the number of our youngest citizens from accidentally shooting themselves and their loved ones, it’s a stopgap that is at least a start.  

The Sun-Times welcomes letters to the editor and op-eds. See our guidelines.

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January 4, 2023 at 05:53AM

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