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Gun locks hit a snag

November 24, 2000

Gun locks hit a snag



By BOB PARTLOW / Staff Writer, Martinsburg


MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - A free gun lock program promoted in Berkeley County and other places this summer has hit a temporary snag.

Those promoting the program have discovered the lock can pop open under certain circumstances, said Dee Dee Sarff, spokeswoman for the National Sports Shooting Foundation in Connecticut.

More than 1,000 locks have been distributed in Berkeley County since the program began here in June.

"Sometimes they will pop open if subjected to considerable force," Sarff said. The problem was discovered by two police departments in Tennessee. The foundation has asked departments who are part of the program to return five locks for testing to see how widespread the problem may be.

"Recall is not the word we are using," she said.

Gun owners who received the free gun locks can still use them with little likelihood of a problem, she said.

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But, she added, "we are looking at a replacement program."

Sparks Sport Center in Martinsburg has given away more than 1,000 of the locks since the program, called Project HomeSafe, began earlier this year, said Kevin Jenkins, gun manager for Sparks.

"I haven't had any problems with them," Jenkins said. "But I've stopped giving them away, and I'm waiting to see what happens. I've got other locks and if somebody requests them, I'll give them. We still want to push the issue of safety."

Lt. Donnie Hayes of the Martinsburg Police Department said the department gave away "less than 20," probably because of the difficulty of coming to the police department and finding him. But he hasn't given any away since he was made aware of the problem.

He said, however, "I tried with some of mine and I couldn't get them to malfunction."

Both Hayes and Sarff said the lock is not a fail-safe mechanism designed to thwart any unwanted use of a firearm.

"This is basically designed as a child-safety feature, not to be designed as a total weapon safety system," Hayes said.

Hayes said many gun manufacturers provide free safety gun locks with every new gun.

Sarff noted another feature of the "cable lock" system.

"The weapon has to be unloaded before you can use it," she said.

When the program was unveiled in Berkeley County in June, spokeswoman Melanie Alvord of the shooting foundation said Project HomeSafe was started a year ago, in part because fewer gun owners were learning safety from their families.

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

The safety locks would sell for about $10.

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