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Effort under way to put safety locks on guns

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Dianne Jennings watched from her car as a Project ChildSafe representative unloaded boxes of gunlocks from a large white van in the McDonough Police parking lot.

"The Project ChildSafe got my attention," said Jennings, a married mother of 5-and 8-year-old sons, about the Project ChildSafe logo, featuring a safety-locked gun and a police officer plastered on the side of the van.

The 3,700 free gunlocks delivered to police departments in Clayton County this weekend are just a fraction of the 355,000 free gunlocks that Project ChildSafe will deliver to law enforcement agencies throughout Georgia. Once receiving the gunlocks, the agencies can distribute them to local residents.

Project ChildSafe aims to promote firearm safety in the home along with promoting education awareness about firearm storage and safety, Project ChildSafe Spokeswoman Mary Haynes explained.

"The current campaign will distribute over 12 million free firearm safety kits nationwide and this follows a successful distribution of over 20 million firearm safety kits over the past year," Haynes said.

Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said access to personal guns should be limited in the first place.

But with children around, he said the added safety mechanism is always a good thing.

"They're very important, and we encourage everyone that has a gun and children to use them," Turner said.

Sponsored by the Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, Project ChildSafe is a national initiative that was started six years ago. Project ChildSafe is an expansion of the NSSF's Project HomeSafe program.

The gunlocks feature an armored steel cable with one end permanently secured to a keyed padlock, the gunlock installation instructions read. When the lock is properly installed, the firearm is unloaded and the lock prevents the firearm's action from closing. The gunlocks can be used on autoloading pistols, revolvers, autoloading and pump-action shotguns, and bolt action rifles.

During the first phase of Project ChildSafe, the U.S. Justice Department awarded the organization a $50 million grant, where 500,000 free gunlocks were distributed throughout the state. The U.S. Justice Department awarded Project ChildSafe with two grants totaling $30 million for its second phase. The two grants will fund the program from Sept. 1, 2004 to Aug. 31, 2005, Haynes said.

News Daily staff writer Justin Boron contributed to this story.