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Gun safety advocates urge the community to take action heading into holiday season

The plea comes after police say a 3-year-old boy is now in critical condition, after he found a gun and shot himself on Saturday.

ST. LOUIS — A 3-year-old boy is in critical condition after police said he found a gun and shot himself. 

Now, with the holidays upon us and people opening up their homes, gun safety advocates are urging the community to take action.

Cathy Gilbert, a volunteer with Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice, said a simple device can prevent these tragedies. 

"There are no words. There just are no words for what these tragedies are," she said.

'Heartbreaking' is the only way Gilbert can describe her emotions, after hearing about another toddler critically injured from an unintentional shooting in St. Louis. 

"I know there are parents somewhere, grandparents, their hearts are breaking, and they're dealing with this tragedy, but compounded by the fact, it didn't need to happen," she said.

Police were called to a shooting on the 3000 block of California Ave. in the Benton Park West neighborhood on Saturday. 

That's when, police said, they found a 3-year-old boy suffering from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to his eye.

RELATED: 3-year-old boy unintentionally shoots self in St. Louis Saturday, police say

Gilbert said situations like these are preventable. 

"The issues surrounding gun violence are complex and multi-layered. We can't tackle them all as one volunteer organization, but this issue we can address," she said.

As a volunteer with Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice, Gilbert specifically focuses on their gun lock safety program, known as 'Lock It for Love.'

"Along with the American Academy for Pediatrics, we advocate that all firearms should be locked when they're not in use, with the ammunition stored separately," she said.

According to Gilbert, 350 children are involved in unintentional shootings in America every year. That's why Women's Voices Raised for Social Justice offers free gun locks across St. Louis, so tragedies like this don't continue.

"A cable gun lock is a very simple device that can prevent that kind of tragedy," she said.

Children becoming the victims of unintentional shootings is something that Gilbert believes St. Louis has seen more of this year.

"One of the myths that we are trying to refute is that if I hide my gun, carefully enough, my young child will not find it. That's not true. We all know that's not true. We encourage people to realize that you cannot prevent a curious child from finding a firearm, it's not enough to hide it up on the top shelf of your closet, that's not being safe," she said.

As we head into the holiday season, Gilbert is encouraging everyone, to talk about gun safety.

"We can all talk about it. Normalize the conversation and make sure our firearms are secured," she said.

Gilbert added that if you are going to someone's house for the holidays, ask them if they have a firearm in the house and how it is secured. 

According to 5 On Your Side data, 123 children under the age of 17 have been victims of gun violence in St. Louis City so far this year. 15 have died. 

The 'Lock It for Love' program has gun locks available at every St. Louis City Fire Department. That includes 30 engine house locations that are open 24 hours daily. If you have questions, you can call 314-533-3406.

The program also has free gun locks available at selected city and county library locations. 

St. Louis County Library locations where you can get a gun lock include Natural Bridge, Weber Road, Florissant Valley and Lewis & Clark

Gun locks are also available at all the City of St. Louis library locations

You can see more information about the 'Lock It for Love' program here. 

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