FYI, you can get a free gun lock from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

photo by: Contributed Photo/Douglas County Sheriff's Office

In this contributed photo, a cable lock secures a Glock handgun, preventing it from being loaded.

What’s better than free stuff? Free stuff with the power to save lives.

Through a partnership with a national nonprofit, the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office offers free gun locks to anyone who wants to stop by and pick one up.

This partnership has been in place since 2007, Jenn Hethcoat, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, told me via email Monday. However, since I didn’t know about it until I saw the agency’s recent Facebook post on the topic, I thought Journal-World readers might benefit from a refresher.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation’s Project ChildSafe, based in Newtown, Conn., provides these safety kits to law enforcement agencies nationwide, according to its website, The organization aims to promote safe storage of firearms to keep them away from hands in which they don’t belong — particularly those of kids.

According to a June 2019 report from the National Vital Statistics System, there were 486 deaths from accidental discharge of a firearm in the United States in 2017. The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control estimates that there were nearly 20,500 emergency department visits for nonfatal unintentional gunshots in the U.S. in 2017.

In my former role as health reporter for the Journal-World, I heard many a behavioral health specialist tout gun locks for their potential to help prevent suicides. In times of crisis, just the few extra moments it takes to find a key and unlock a gun could mean the difference between life and death for you or someone else.

photo by: Mackenzie Clark

A free gun lock from the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and its accompanying keys are pictured lying on a desk Jan. 8, 2020.

The pamphlet included with the locks says that they don’t fit all firearms, but they will fit many commonly owned ones, and it provides instructions for how to secure autoloading pistols, revolvers, autoloading and pump-action shotguns and bolt-action rifles. The first step, of course, is to ensure the firearm is not loaded.

However, Hethcoat said that gun locks are just one aspect of safe firearm storage.

“It is important for gun owners to make sure their firearms are stored unloaded and locked either with a locking device or inside a locked cabinet, and to always store ammunition in a locked location separate from firearms and out of the reach of children,” she said via email.

Additionally, the pamphlet says that people who are convicted felons, unlawful users of controlled substances, dishonorably discharged from the military, subject to a court restraining order, convicted of a crime involving domestic violence and/or deemed “mentally incompetent” by a court, among others, are legally prohibited from possessing firearms. It urges those who are concerned about their ability to safely store their firearms to either seek off-site storage or consider other means of safe storage, such as disassembly with parts stored in various secured locations.

There has been an “influx” in the number of folks coming in to ask about the locks since the sheriff’s office’s Facebook post on Friday, Deputy Charlie Cooper said via email Wednesday.

If you need a gun lock, they’re available at the window for the sheriff’s office on the second floor of the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center, 111 E. 11th St. The building is open to the public from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

Project ChildSafe’s website also has a list of agencies around each state that offer the free gun locks.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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