Last time out, I leaned that Austin police are permitting a shooting sports foundation to control the distribution of gun locks. The National Shooting Sports Foundation is in charge, according to APD policy.
But the governor has said all Texas citizens can get gun locks.
My latest investigation confirms the police department is not doing its job to protect us by making locks available. I’d had no luck as with a request through my Lock Arms for Life organization. I thought I’d try to get locks as an individual. My goal was to get 10.
Before I went waltzing down to the police station, I thought I’d cover all my bases by sending an email to a staffer at the governor’s office. “Hoping you can help me. I know the governor said we could get lots of gun locks. I‘m trying to get some and wondering how that works? Is there a state program, or some help for police departments?” Maybe he could provide answers that I could in turn tell the police department.
After a week I hadn’t yet received a reply. The governor’s office must have bigger things to worry about besides gun safety, right? I know they’re working hard on keeping the homeless off the streets.
I did what any good detective does — gather information through investigation. I had a meeting downtown with a veterans organization at City Hall. Afterwards, I went to the main police station. At the corner of 8th and I35, I walked into the building and approached the glass window. The woman on the other side was an alumni volunteer—one of the ladies from my citizen academy class. I recognized her from the polo shirt I saw during the class. It felt like I had a connection, someone on the inside to help.
The police were so helpful during those weeks, so I was sure she could assist me with the locks. I told her I needed gun locks for 10 firearms, then smiled and didn’t say anything else. She asked if I was an officer. When I replied no, she left her chair and whispered to a uniformed officer behind her. He approach the window.
“You want gun locks?”
“Yes. I have 10 guns I need to secure.”
“One gun lock per person.”
This doesn’t sound anything like the governor’s promise. I let out a heavy sigh and then shake my head. I want to scream at him, “What the hell is wrong with you people?” I want to shove that Missouri police department’s press release in their faces, the one which said people could take as many locks as you need. In Missouri, you don’t even need to be a local resident. Guns are just as popular there as in Texas. I want to shout, “Don’t you care how important it is that I store my 10 guns safely?”
I realize arguing is not worth the breath. So I took the one gun lock, after I wait while he tries to find the box where the locks are hidden. I walked away with my veins pulsing. I pull out my cell phone and Google the APD website. Yes, it said gun locks are available. “FREE gun locks to Austin residents for the safety of you and your family.” The website even listed the locations where the locks can be picked up.
Nowhere on that site does it say anything about outside organizations being denied access to locks, or any mention of “one lock per person.” Definitely not what I heard from Governor Abbott.
The police were being careful, though. Before I left, the officer asked me my name. It felt like they were developing like a “no gun lock list,” like a terrorist watch list.
Determined to find out how fully the ridiculous policy was being carried out, I went to a substation on Springdale Road, only a nine-minute drive away. Inside I was met by a woman who seemed warm and friendly. But the minute I asked for 10 gun locks, I noticed her attitude changed. She eyed me more closely, enough that I felt like a criminal. I might have been the first person to ask for locks that day, or that week. It’s only gun locks, not guns. It’s hard to see how a lock could be unsafe.
At Springdale I got two gun locks. “Really? That’s all you can give me?”
I asked what I’m supposed to do with my other eight guns. She shrugged and says, “I can only give you two.”
I noticed that locating these free gun locks seems to be a problem at both offices. She disappeared down a hallway, and after a 10-minute wait she returned without locks. She then shuffled through boxes under a counter near the front desk. When she announced she’s found them, she handed them to me and asked my name. I should have said Anne Oakley, but answered with, “Leesa.”
Inside my car and I took the picture below. I wanted a reminder of the generosity of Austin Police Department. They are the people who wear a badges that say to serve and protect. After two Austin stops, I felt less protected than when I began. My other seven guns were still unsecured. I have enough money to purchase more locks, but what about the people who don’t?
My son died. I know a gun lock might have saved his life. I’ve given out more than 400 gun locks to parents and young adults in past two years as part of my educational work in schools. Austin police should have a no-questions-asked policy. Providing locks for organizations that care about helping Texans secure their guns should be a safety mission, especially for a police department.
In a state where children and young adults are dying from firearm incidents, they are getting access to guns that should be secured. Gun locks help reduce the risk of tragedies. Our police should have a process to help us as much as the governor says they will. Maybe that veterans organization can help in a way that our police in Texas cannot.