So many gun owners showed up for a gun-lock giveaway in Fife on Saturday, all 350 of the lockboxes on hand were spoken for 15 minutes before the event officially started at 11 a.m.
More than 100 people who lined up outside the Sportco store on 20th Street East to receive the lockboxes or trigger guards left when notified that the supplies had run out.
Officials at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital and Seattle Children’s Hospital, which organized the event, said they weren’t surprised by the turnout. A similar event in Seattle last month drew crowds nearly as large, they said.
“What this turnout tells me is that people are interested in being safe with their guns,” said Fife Mayor Tim Curtis, who attended the event and helped promote it. “We think everybody should be able to have a gun if they want one. But they need to be safe.”
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Curtis proclaimed Saturday “Safe Gun Storage Day,” calling for increased access to safe gun storage as a way to decrease gun injuries and violence.
Dr. Jim Polo, chief medical officer at Mary Bridge, said the two children’s hospitals sponsored the event because it helps them achieve their mission of reducing harm to children, much like efforts to increase the use of bicycle helmets and seatbelts.
“Every eight days here in Washington state a child dies because of gunfire,” Polo said. “If we can make children’s lives a little safer by having guns locked up, we’re all in.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the presence of a gun in a home increases the risk of homicide, suicide and accidental death. The likelihood of homicide is three times higher; suicide three to five times higher and accidental death four times higher.
According to the CDC, 161 people in Washington from birth to age 19 died from firearm injuries between 2010 and 2013. Most, by far, were teenagers, and more than half were suicides.
Other groups that help fund and organize Saturday’s event included the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center, the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, Safe Kids Pierce County, and Sportco, which provided the gun lock devices at prices below wholesale cost.
Don McKnight of Tacoma was among those lucky enough to get a free lockbox, a Bulldog Vault, which retails for around $100.
“I just wanted to make sure the only one who has access to my weapons is the one that should have it,” McKnight said.
McKnight said he owns several guns, most of which are already locked up. He has worried about the others, he said, because he now has grandchildren visiting his house.
Another man who received a lockbox, Josh Hanson of Kent, said he arrived at the event a half an hour early with his four children, ages 3, 5, 8 and 12.
With the lockbox, Hanson said, “I know my gun will be close, and I won’t have to worry about these guys getting a hold of it.”