As he watched news coverage of last week’s school shooting in Oregon, Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie saw the need to remind the community that his office provides gun locks free of charge.
In the latest school shooting in the U.S., Jared Padgett, 15, killed a fellow student and injured a teacher before taking his own life at his high school near Portland. The shots were fired with a rifle Padgett took from his father’s home.
“Possibly, if they had some of these child-safe locks on the guns, he could not have accessed those weapons and done what he did,” McDuffie said. “Now, that’s not a guarantee that it’s never going to happen. But every step we can take to prevent something like that from happening, I think that’s our due diligence.”
The free gun locks are donated to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office by Project ChildSafe, a nationwide program that promotes responsible gun ownership. For more information, visit www.projectchildsafe.org.
Anyone is welcome to pick up free gun locks at the ECSO, with no questions asked. There are no restrictions on the number of locks each person can receive.
“If you don’t want us to know how many guns you have, come get two a day if you want to, if you need them,” McDuffie said. “We’re not trying to find out how many guns you have. We don’t care how many guns you have. We just want to make sure that you’ve got a child-safe lock on them and they’re safe.”
Some people have responded already to the reminder about the program. For example, McDuffie said, one man dropped by to pick up 15 gun locks.
“If it takes 15 to get all his guns done,” McDuffie said, “we’ll give him 15 until we run out, and then we’ll try to get some more.”
The gun lock resembles a smaller version of a bicycle lock that has both ends secured by a padlock. A cable threads through the gun chamber, loops around and locks together to prevent the weapon from being fired.
McDuffie demonstrated with a handgun how simple the locks are to use. In just a few seconds, the gun was locked and inoperable.
“It’s about as simple as it gets,” he said.
A misconception about the safety locks, according to McDuffie, is that they are only for handguns. They can be used on shotguns and possibly even rifles, he said, and each Project ChildSafe lock comes with information on using it for different types of guns.
“I have them in shotguns at my house,” McDuffie said. “They can be used with a lot of different weapons.”
McDuffie recommends having a good hiding place not just for the key to the safety lock, but also the guns themselves. A gun safe would be the best option, he said, but gun owners should at least tuck away any weapons somewhere that children — or intruders — won’t find easily.
“Under the bed and in the closet are two places I would say do not put them, because that’s where everybody looks,” McDuffie said.
Gun lock safety tips
* Keep cable and lock outside of trigger guard at all times.
* Always push cable into padlock until it locks securely.
* After removing key, tug on cable to ensure connection is secure.
* Store key to the gun lock and the firearm separately.
* Store key in a location inaccessible to unauthorized persons, particularly children.
* Do not work the firearm’s action with the lock in place. This may damage the lock and/or the firearm.
* If the lock’s plastic coating becomes damaged or separated from the steel cable or the lock face, replace the lock.
General firearms safety tips
* Keep all firearms locked in a safe place, away from children and other unauthorized persons.
* Store ammunition under lock and key, separately from firearms.
* Read and understand the owner’s manual that came with your firearm.
* Follow safe gun handling practices: keep muzzle pointed in a safe direction, keep fingers off the trigger and keep the firearm unloaded when not in use.