A national campaign by the gun industry has provided millions of free gun locks to consumers in an effort to keep firearms from falling into the hands of children, says USA Today. The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms and shooting sports industry, targeted five states in August with Project ChildSafe. Stops in New York, Michigan, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska concluded the second phase of the program, which has visited all 50 states and given away 28 million locks since September 2003. The current phase, which runs through August 2006, will focus on safety education. Three million more gun locks also will be distributed.
A report last month in the Pediatrics online journal said that about 1.7 million children live in homes where there are unlocked and loaded guns. Of 1,400 children and teenagers shot to death in 2002, roughly 90% were at home when the incident occurred, the report says. The lock giveaway coincided with expected federal legislation that would shield gunmakers and dealers from most lawsuits stemming from criminal use of firearms. Because the ChildSafe program does not question or track those taking the free locks, officials do not know how many are actually being used. Most gun manufacturers already provide some kind of lock with new firearms, but the practice is voluntary. The federal legislation that would protect the firearm industry from lawsuits includes an amendment that would require locks, or another safety device, to be sold with every handgun. Seven states already require that locks be sold with some firearms.