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Police offering free gun locks

January 23, 2005

Marisa O'Neil

Gun owners who want to keep their weapons safer around children in

the home are getting some free help at local police stations.

Newport Beach and Costa Mesa police departments are offering free

gun locks through Project ChildSafe, a nationwide firearms safety

program. The cable-style locks are designed to immobilize guns and

prevent accidental discharge -- particularly by a child.

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"Our key goal is to prevent a loaded firearm from lying where

children can get a hold of them," said Bob Keyser, a spokesman for

Project ChildSafe. "That's a tragedy waiting to happen."

The next safety measure is using gun locks, which provide extra

security for households with children, Costa Mesa Sgt. Marty Carver

said. Just keeping a gun on a high shelf in a closet doesn't mean

children can't get to it, he said.

"Kids can climb anything and find whatever you hide, even if you

thought there was no way to get to it," he said. "They're watching

and listening all the time. They know if there's a gun there and

where to go find it."

The locks, which retail for about $10, fit handguns and most

rifles, Carver said.

On automatic handguns, the cable slides through the ejection port

and prevents it from being loaded and the slide from moving forward.

On revolvers, it is fed through the barrel and empty cylinder,

keeping it from closing.

They're not foolproof -- bolt cutters can remove a lock, he said

-- but they make it impossible for small children to use.

Neither Newport Beach nor Costa Mesa has had any accidental

shootings of or by children in recent memory, officers said. But both

have had incidents involving adults.

Project ChildSafe is distributing more than 2 million gun locks in

California, Keyser said. The project is being funded by a U.S.

Department of Justice grant for firearms safety education, he said.

Residents can pick the locks up at the Newport Beach or Costa Mesa

police department front desks, officers said.

People who worry that immobilizing their guns would make it

impossible for them to defend their homes need to weigh the pros and

cons of locking them, Carver said.

"You've got to look at what you're trying to protect," he said.

"The odds of having someone break into your house are much less than

a child getting to that gun while you're not watching it."

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