The police officer didn’t have much time for her call to me, even though she was the one who called. That’s how calls can go when they prevent things from happening. She was standing in the way of safety, though, letting Austin police policy prevent guns from being secured.
Gun safety is my life’s mission since I lost Jon, but I’d better explain.
I educate young adults about gun safety. Part of my lesson includes making free gun locks available after my talks. But I’ve been spinning my wheels trying to get the Austin Police Department to give me gun locks. Other cities do it, even cities in states like Missouri. Just read the release below from the Raytown, Missouri Police Department. It was posted immediately after the death of a toddler. “In the spirit of helping people secure their guns,” it begins, “and possibly preventing another tragedy”
- Anyone may have a gun lock. They do NOT have to be a Raytown resident.
- There is no charge for the locks.
- They may have as many locks as needed to secure their firearms.
- There is no identification required, with no questions asked.
- Police personnel will not retain any information on who receives a gun lock.
My mission is that if a person owns a gun, they secure it. Responsible ownership. The graphics are powerful. It’s important to note that the Missouri police are working with Project ChildSafe. We’ll get to that in a minute.
Sounds like the kind of life saving message all police departments should embrace, right? The Austin Police Department’s policy is not as good as little Raytown’s. Austin’s department is letting an outside group control requests for locks.
I started my crusade for gun locks back in February when I met with the newly appointed Assistant Police Chief at Kirby Lane Cafe. It was one of reasons why I arranged the meeting. I wanted to introduce myself, introduce Lock Arms for Life, and ask, “Can you give me gun locks for my events?”
The chief was confident he could. But when I followed up with email I received a voice message from a different officer who said, “unfortunately we cannot provide the locks to you.”
It seems the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s ChildSafe program sent a letter in 2017, saying “gun locks should not be given to outside groups, and if the department receives any call from those groups, they should be directed to NSSF.” The locks are sent to police departments from the NSSF, which wants to control who can get them.
Hmm. That letter was dated before the mass shootings in Santa Fe, El Paso, and Odessa, and before the Texas governor’s promise to include funding for 100,000 guns locks free of charge to Texans who want them.
I’m a Texan who wants them. I never thought it would be this difficult to get those gun locks from a major city’s police department, one whose goal is public safety. Over course of several months, I fired off more emails to the chief hoping he would either change the rule or get me the locks he’d promised.
Instead I got repeat versions of that phone call from that officer. In one email, the officer who sent it attached a more recent letter from the NSSF. I’ll summarize. “No gun locks to outside organizations—conflict of interest —confusion about political agenda and messaging.”
Really? Anyone who hands out gun locks has one message in mind—I want to save a life. The shooting sports group believes that some people who need gun locks also have an mission to control guns. The NSSF solution is to control the requests for the locks. They must be judging how much gun control the outside groups are supporting.
If it sounds political, it seems that way to me, too. Using gun control as a means to keep gun locks out of the hands of gun owners is dangerous at best.
Disheartened, I placed a post on the Survivor Network at Everytown for Gun Safety. I want to know if other states are facing the same issue with their police departments. I got reply from a survivor in North Carolina. “We just contact the Sheriff’s office or the Police Department and ask who to contact. The number we get varies; we just take whatever is offered to us.”
After reading that it seems to me there is no consistency within police agencies. Locking guns seems to be at a department’s discretion—some care about that letter from the NSSF, while others care more about public safety.
Adding to my frustration, I recently did a tabling event and the organization next to me me had gun locks from ChildSafe project. I realized they were most likely provided by the Austin-area suburban police.
You can probably guess what I did after learning that —yes, I fired off an email to the chief. And like in the past, APD had someone call me. Only this time I could tell she didn’t really want to talk to me. It was not a conversation of pleasantries, helpfulness, or respectful discussion, not even after explaining my tragedy and mission to not let what happened to me happen to anyone else.
In a way, that officer reminded me of the visit I had with the Sheriff in North Carolina after Jon’s death. That woman in that detective’s chair wasn’t looking to help— she just thought she was doing her job.
The latest Austin call did not go well. I heard a repeat of the NSSF policy. She explained they give gun locks to anyone who needs one. I asked, “what if I need 25. I have friends who own 25 guns.”
“Me too,” she said. But then she was unsure I could have that many locks. It sounded like I’d be getting only one lock from the police. I hung up mad as a hornet. I can’t believe APD, the place where I took a citizens police academy course, is holding a NSSF letter so sacred. What are they so afraid of? It is just a request from the shooting organization—there’s nothing mandatory in the letter, and no one at the NSSF has threatened to cut off the supply of gun locks if departments don’t abide. For proof of that, just look to Raytown.
Just like all of our hopes about being safer from guns, I was hoping for a different outcome. I wanted that officer to understand and make a decision about what’s right. Saving lives is more important than a message on a piece of a shooting foundation’s letterhead. She could have easily said, “We appreciate you efforts, and please go to one of substations and get as many locks as you might need. I can’t promise a large quantity, but you’re welcome to take 20 or 25.”
I’m an NRA member who works for safer ownership. I am so disappointed in our police department. The people in charge need to change this policy to keep us all safer from irresponsible gun owners. We save lives when we care more about public safety than what a shooting organization says they need to do.