Safety advocates are hoping free gun locks will increase public awareness about safe firearm storage, said Dee Dee Dockins, national spokeswoman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
Dockins, a Jackson, Mo., native was giving away gun locks at a booth outside the Cape Girardeau Wal-Mart Monday as part of Project HomeSafe, an educational program promoting gun safety.
"Our goal is to eliminate accidental shootings," she said.
More than 600 locks were distributed in two hours Monday afternoon, and booth workers had three hours yet to go.
Cape Girardeau Police Lt. Rick Schmidt and two Missouri Conservation agents helped Dockins demonstrate the locks to passers-by and quizzed children about what to do if they find a gun.
Children who said they'd leave the gun alone and find an adult were given a blue ribbon.
$5 million grant
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association, works in partnership with the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors and is funded by the shooting sports industry and a $5 million U.S. Department of Justice grant.
Dockins, who recently returned to Jackson after living in another state, said she has a 4-year-old stepdaughter.
"I've always been safety conscious," Dockins said. "Still, having a child in the house changes your perspective and makes me even more so."
A competitive shooter, she said she owns several guns.
Project HomeSafe launched a nationwide safety tour this year with the goal of distributing 3 million firearm safety kits that include a gun lock in all 50 states.
The gun locks are made up of a vinyl-covered steel cable with one end permanently secured to a keyed, four-tumbler padlock.
When properly installed, the gun is unloaded and the lock prevents the firearm's action from closing.
The lock is intended to discourage unauthorized access to a gun, particularly by young children, Dockins said.
"Guns are like Christmas presents," she said, "If you hide them, kids are going to find them."
Ideally, the gun locks would be used in combination with gun safes, Schmidt said.
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