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W.Va. police, sports shop give away gun locks

June 08, 2000|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Local police and a sporting goods store have joined a national gun lock giveaway.

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A total of 300 locks are available at the Martinsburg Police Department, the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department and Sparks Sport Center, where Thursday's local kickoff of Project HomeSafe was held.

An additional 1,200 locks are on their way to Berkeley County, according to Melanie Alvord, a spokeswoman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Since September, the foundation has distributed about 200,000 free locks, and expects to give away another 300,000 of the vinyl-covered steel cables with padlocks by the end of the year, Alvord said.

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The local giveaway was set up by Kevin Jenkins, the gun manager at Sparks. The locks would normally sell for about $10, he said.

Alvord said the program encourages safety and is aimed at preventing firearms accidents, although the results may not be measurable.

In a brochure passed out with the locks, the Connecticut-based National Shooting Sports Foundation - a group of firearms-related businesses - mentions cable locks as one way to safely store firearms.

Other measures are trigger locks, lock boxes and gun safes. Also, guns can be disassembled.

Alvord said Project HomeSafe was started last fall, in part because fewer gun owners are learning safety from their families.

Hunters traditionally have passed down gun lessons to their children. But now it has become common for adults to buy guns for protection, and sometimes they don't get enough training, Alvord said.

One person at Sparks Sport Center Thursday was Earl Unger of Inwood, W.Va., a frequent customer at the store.

Unger said that when he was young, his father, a game warden and security guard, kept three guns in his son's bedroom.

"I looked at them, but I knew not to touch them," Unger said.

When he was 12, his father took him hunting and taught him to handle a gun.

Unger said he brought up his two sons and his daughter the same way. He now keeps his guns in a vault.

Linda and William Hopkins of Great Cacapon, W.Va., came from Morgan County Thursday to pick up a gun lock.

Linda Hopkins said her husband just bought a 9mm Ruger handgun and the couple will learn together how to use it.

They don't have children, but they're concerned about an intruder getting the gun, Linda Hopkins said. When they lived in Savage, Md., someone stole a .22-caliber gun from their home, she said.

To use the lock, a gun owner removes the magazine of a pistol or rifle and slides in the cable, which snaps into a padlock that can be opened only with a key. The cable goes through the barrel or cylinder of a revolver.

Sgt. Jerry Jenkins of the state Division of Natural Resources, who also attended the kickoff at Sparks, said studies have shown that 85 percent of shooting accidents occur in the home.

Martinsburg Police Chief Ted Anderson said there are several handgun accidents in Berkeley County each year. "Even one is too many," he said.

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