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Midlothian Police offer free gun locks to help prevent accidental shootings involving kids

Midlothian Police offer free gun locks to help prevent accidental shootings involving kids
Midlothian Police offer free gun locks to help prevent accidental shootings involving kids 02:22

MIDLOTHIAN — Law enforcement agencies and physicians are urging families to make sure guns are stored securely to keep kids safe this summer.

So far this year, 86 children in the United States have gotten a hold of a gun and accidentally shot themselves or someone else.

Two of those incidents happened in North Texas, according to Everytown, a gun violence prevention organization that tracks these cases.

Last December, a seven-year-old in Midlothian got a hold of a loaded firearm and accidentally shot an adult family member.

"Fortunately, it didn't end up in an accidental homicide," said Chief Carl Smith with the Midlothian Police Department. "That really started our staff thinking what we could do, in a positive way, to reduce the number of these types of accidents."

The Midlothian Police Department is now offering free cable gun locks to anyone who needs one, through a partnership with Project Childsafe. Smith believes they can prevent both a future crime if your weapon is stolen and a tragedy in your home.

"Even if they get to the weapon, if it's locked up with this, you've done all you can do as a parent or guardian to comply with the law and keep your family safe," he said.

Emergency physicians at Cook Children's pediatric hospitals see the impact of unintentional shootings every year. Dr. Daniel D. Guzman, who is the medical director for Cook Children's Center for Community Health, says incidents tend to spike when school's out and kids spend more time at their friends' houses or with other family members.

"Spring breaks, but definitely summertime," Dr. Guzman said. "June, July – as parents are trying to figure out, where are the kids going, I still have to go to work. Sometimes you forget, oh that firearm is up in the closet."

A CDC report published last December found that 1,262 young children were killed by unintentional shootings from 2003 to 2021.

Federal researchers found 67% of shooters were either playing with or showing the firearm to others when it was discharged. The vast majority involved guns that were stored unlocked and loaded.

"We need to address it, and we need to be able to come to the table and have reasonable solutions," Dr. Guzman said. "We need to make this part of the norm, so people aren't afraid to talk about it."

His goal is to make the conversation as commonplace as one about pool safety, car seats, and bike helmets.

"Storage is the foundation to whether it's unintentional injuries, suicides, or violence in the community," said Dr. Guzman. "If we can store our firearms correctly, where people don't have unauthorized access to them, then I think we can really move the needle. We can really make the difference on those unintentional and self-harm fatality rates."

Chief Smith hopes to prevent fatal accidents, one lock at a time.

"Sometimes we politicize gun ownership, but the fact is – they're there," Chief Smith said. "If you're an owner, you should be responsible about securing it."

The Midlothian Police Department isn't the only law enforcement agency in North Texas offering free gun locks. You can find other departments partnering with Project Childsafe by clicking here.

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