Federal budget cuts could hinder Douglas County's efforts to distribute free safety locks to gun owners.
The Douglas County Sheriff's Office has been distributing the locks - which, when properly used, prevent the accidental firing of a firearm - for about two years. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office joined the program in January.
The locks were paid for by a U.S. Department of Justice program, Project Childsafe, administered by the National Shooting Sports Foundation.
"They're used in addition to good, safe gun-handling inside the homes," sheriff's office spokeswoman Lt. Kari Wempe said of the locks. "We want our children and our families to be safe."
About 200 locks have been distributed this year through the sheriff's office, Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Douglas County Health Department and pediatricians' offices.
Since the program began in 2002, more than 220,000 locks have been distributed by roughly 300 agencies statewide. Nationwide, 35 million locks have been distributed, said Shari LeGate of Project Childsafe.
Funding for the national program has decreased nearly every year since 2002, when it had a $5 million budget, LeGate said. In 2006-07, the funding was cut to $912,000, a $4 million decrease from the previous year's budget.
This year Project Childsafe has received 560,000 gun lock requests nationwide and has been able to fulfill only about half of those, LeGate said.
Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said he plans to seek other funding sources, such as forfeiture money from illegal drug seizures, for the gun lock program.