L.A. County offers free gun locks to try to reduce firearm violence

Survivors of gun violence came together Tuesday morning at a news conference at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center to share a message: It’s preventable.

To that end, Los Angeles County public health officials announced that the county will offer free gun safety locks to residents. Designed for use on unloaded weapons, gun locks cover the trigger and require a key or combination to open.

Speaking to a small crowd, Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said, “In Los Angeles County, a child is killed or injured by firearms every 30 hours. »

“In 2022, more than 300 LA County residents died by gun suicide, and 510 residents died after being shot by someone with a gun,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer added that too many families have experienced the pain of losing a child, parent or sibling because guns were “readily available at home, loaded and unlocked.”

To reduce the accessibility of guns in the home, the county Public Health Department’s Office of Violence Prevention is making 60,000 gun locks available to residents free of charge, no questions asked.

Locks can be ordered from the county’s gun safety website and received by mail or picked up at one of these county medical facilities:

Collection locations will expand to county libraries toward the end of the year.

What sets the county’s initiative apart from state and federal efforts to reduce gun violence is its emphasis on gun accessibility in the home.

In 2020, the National Shooting Sports Foundation estimated that 433.9 million firearms were in civilian possession.

More than 10 percent of Los Angeles County households report owning a gun, and many of them are likely to have children, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

Children may not understand the dangers associated with having guns in their home, so securing guns is a proven approach to reducing accidental injuries and deaths, said Shannon Thyne, director of pediatrics. from the county Department of Health Services.

“Locked firearms decrease self-inflicted firearm injuries by 78 percent and reduce unintentional firearm injuries by 85 percent,” Thyne said.

Mia Livas Porter said she doesn’t think she’s a survivor of gun violence, much less someone who should share her story in an effort to demand change. But when she started volunteering with Moms Demand Action six years ago, she realized she fit the definition of a survivor because her brother committed suicide by gunman more than a year ago. 30 years old.

She felt a responsibility to raise awareness by sharing her story and urging others to prevent gun violence by asking friends and family who own guns what safety measures they take at home.

Knowing the lasting effects of gun violence, Michael Scott, director of the physical medicine and rehabilitation department at Rancho Los Amigos, said the vast majority of individuals survive but are left with significant, life-changing disabilities.

Survivors go to rehabilitation centers such as Rancho Los Amigos for spinal cord, brain or orthopedic injuries caused by gunshot blasts.

“These injuries can be devastating, leading to paralysis of the arms and legs, cognitive impairment, loss of bowel and bladder control and sometimes the inability to breathe on their own, forcing a person to be on a ventilator at life,” Scott said.

Besides the physical injuries, he said, there are also emotional and mental tolls on the patient and their family.

Scott has seen rehabilitated survivors overcome their injuries and re-enter the workforce. Yet he’s still asked if there are new ways to treat spinal cord injuries or paralysis caused by gun violence.

“Unfortunately, although we have made progress in neurological recovery and rehabilitation, the damage caused by a bullet to the spinal cord is significant and we still have no way to repair it,” Scott said. “That said, our best chance of handling this situation is to prevent unintentional firearm injuries from happening in the first place.” »

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