Cable gun locks can keep families safe

  • Published
  • By Rebecca Ward

Arlington, Va. (AFNS) --

A second shipment of cable-style gunlocks is making its way to installations across the United States courtesy of the Department of the Air Force. 

The gunlock giveaway began in March 2020 with 150,000 cable-style locks distributed to all U.S. Air Force installations. A second shipment of 52,000 is being distributed at bases with a total force population of at least 3,000.

“We want to provide every opportunity we can to help make our teammate’s homes safe,” said Brig. Gen. Claude Tudor, Air Force Integrated Resilience director.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 60 percent of the 39,740 firearm deaths reported in 2018 were self-inflicted. Additionally, owning a firearm increases the risk of dying by suicide four to six times higher. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. 

“Within the Department of the Air Force, suicide is the leading cause of death and firearms were used as the lethal means in 70% of those fatalities,” said Maj. Jordan Simonson, Department of the Air Force suicide prevention program manager. “Encouraging safe storage of lethal means is a major component of time-based prevention.”  

“We are using the acronym SLO, which stands for safes, locks and outside, to help forces and families remember three storage options that can save lives by using safes, locks or storing lethal means outside the home,” said Simonson. “Time-based prevention can interrupt access to the means to cause intentional or unintentional injury or death by locking firearms, medications and chemicals, or storing them outside the home. The time it takes to gain access to the lethal means, even if it only interrupts the action by five minutes, can be the difference between life and death.”

According to a study by the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, among teens, aged 15-19, suicide is the second leading cause of death. Guns in the home, particularly loaded guns are associated with increased risk for suicide by youth, regardless of mental health problems or suicidal risk factors. 

Accidental shootings are less common and in 2018, CDC statistics show unintentional firearm discharges were responsible for the deaths of 458 people, 54 of them under the age of 14.

Nearly 50 percent of service members possess a firearm, but only one in three safely store them in the home, according to a Veterans Affairs document.

"Our service members and their families are our most important resource. We will do everything in our power to help protect and promote their well-being. These cable locks properly used on firearms can prevent access to lethal means by someone in distress, someone who is impaired or a curious child from accidentally discharging a firearm. Using SLO is a simple action and it’s an important measure we want to make sure is available to help keep our teammates and families safe,” said Tudor. 

With Americans spending more time at home due to COVID-19 restrictions, there is a greater potential for home accidents, especially for children. About a third of accidental deaths in 2018 were caused by poisoning – including prescribed medications, according to the CDC. Accidental poisoning is also responsible for sending about 300 children under the age of 19 to the emergency room every day.   

A recent CDC analysis indicates more than 80,000 people died of drug overdoses, including prescription medications, in the 12-month period ending in June 2020. The Department of Defense’s 2017 suicide event report found that drugs and/or alcohol are the most common method of non-fatal suicide attempts for service members. Storing medications safely and proper disposal of unused or outdated medication can help reduce that risk.

The cable-style gunlocks can easily be adapted to attach to cabinets or lockers containing medication, chemicals and power tools, as well as firearms, preventing easy access to lethal means.  

Airmen and Guardians may contact their local violence prevention office for details on how to obtain their free gunlock, which are available now at most U.S. based installations. 

For more tips on how to make our homes more secure, the Air Force Occupational Safety Division has additional recommendations on their website. 

Other resources and tips on securing your home:  Health Resources and Services Administration; Drug Enforcement Agency proper drug disposal guidelines; National Safety Council - Home Safety