ST. LOUIS — Firearm injuries are a serious public health problem in the U.S.
In 2020, country saw over 45,000 gun-related deaths, or about 124 deaths each day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
More than 26,000 of those deaths were due to suicide and about 550 were preventable, happening while cleaning or playing with a gun or another accidental incident, the CDC reports.
Researchers, health care professionals and gun owners have proven the safe and secure storage of firearms can reduce firearm-related injuries and deaths, according to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Safe storage practices can also prevent those who can't legally have guns, potential thieves, children and those at an elevated risk for suicide or violence against others from getting their hands on guns.
Safe gun storage options
Guns should always be stored away when not in use. The CDC warns that simply putting a firearm out of sight or out of reach isn't enough to prevent its use by children or unauthorized adults.
- Cable locks are very affordable, with prices ranging between $10 and $50. When used correctly, a cable runs through the barrel of a firearm to prevent it from being accidentally fired. A key or combination is required to unlock it. Cable locks allow for quick access in the event of an emergency and are a deterrent of theft.
- Gun cases, costing between $10 and $150, are also an affordable option. Available in plastic, fabric or metal, cases are great for those looking to conceal or legally transport a firearm. An external lock is recommended for added safety.
- Lock boxes range in price from $25 to $350. A lock box has an integrated lock that helps provide reliable protection for firearms and allows gun owners to legally transport their firearms outside of the home.
- Electronic lock boxes range in price from $50 to $350. They allow gun owners to store, legally transport and prevent theft of firearms, as a code is required to access the contents. Some electronic boxes are designed for quick access in an emergency.
- Full-size and biometric gun safes can cost anywhere from $200 to $2,500 and allow gun owners to protect their weapons from damage and store multiple firearms at once.
- Console storage devices, which can cost $250 to $300, are available for those who need to store a firearm in their vehicle. The custom-fitted devices provide concealment from would-be thieves. Biometric options are available.
- Cargo-area storage devices, which can cost anywhere from $500 to $2,500, allow for the effective transport of firearms to the range or field. The vehicle devices allow for locked storage, concealment and protection from bumps and jostling while driving.
- Out-of-home storage should be considered when someone in the home is at risk for suicide or self-harm. Warning signs include changes in usual behavior, history of mental illness, increased alcohol or drug use, recent major life events and expressions of suicidal thoughts, feelings or behavior.
No matter the firearm storage option, it's important to keep firearms locked, unloaded and separated from ammunition when not in use.
Click here to take Project ChildSafe's firearm storage and safety assessment to see how your gun storage habits could be improved.
Where to get a free gun lock
Gun owners can pick up a free gun lock at St. Louis City Fire Department engine houses, St. Louis Public Library locations and select St. Louis County Library locations. The locks are available in partnership with the Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice's Lock It For Love project.
Many local law enforcement offices offer free gun locks to residents.
BJC HealthCare is working to lower the number of preventable gun-related injuries by making free no-questions-asked gun locks available at all BJC hospital emergency rooms, St. Louis Children's Hospital Specialty Care Centers in west and south St. Louis County, the St. Louis Children's Hospital Center for Families Resource Library and the St. Louis Children's Safety Stop.
Missouri and Illinois parents can request a free gun lock online from St. Louis Children's Hospital.
SSM Health has free gun locks available at local SSM Health hospital emergency rooms, Cardinal Glennon Pediatrics clinics and the Behavior Health Urgent Care at SSM Health DePaul Hospital - St. Louis.