MILWAUKEE — Protecting our children here in the City of Milwaukee is one of the most important responsibilities for the community. At Ascension St. Joseph Hospital, they are looking at safety as a public health issues and are trying to prevent gun injuries before they happen.
"What we try to do is address it as a fully preventable type of injury and providing these safety kits to the community will really help get on top of that," said Keli Anderson, trauma coordinator at Ascension St. Joseph.
Through a partnership with Milwaukee Police District 7 and Project Child Safe, a firearm safety education program, the hospital is giving away free gun safety kits that include a cable style gun lock along with firearm safety information.
The hospital started giving away the gun locks in December. Since then, they have handed out about 35 locks, including 10 in the past three days.
Anderson said it's important to talk to your children about gun safety even if you don't own a fire arm.
"Having those open communication with your kids, teaching them to stop, go and find an adult. Don’t touch it even if it looks like a toy, making sure they are aware about how serious the situation is," said Anderson.
This year, the hospital has treated 40 gunshot victims including children, and just this last week two 5-year-olds tragically died, one in Milwaukee and one in Kenosha after finding a firearm.
"With both recent cases of the 5-year-olds in unfortunate situations, those are preventable," said Anderson. "The number one thing you can do to help prevent those is safely store your firearm."
Mayor Tom Barrett said the message for gun safety is clear and important.
"Make sure they are not loaded when they are in the home," he said. "Make sure they are far away from children because no matter what your intentions are, when you have a loaded gun near a child, it's a recipe for a disaster. Unfortunately we have seen in the city in the last several weeks several instances where adults have not done the right thing in terms of storing your guns. Making sure they are not loaded, making sure that they are not accessible for young people and we just have to hammer that message over and over again. If you're going to have a gun in your home, make sure it is no where near a young person."
The gun locks are available free of charge, no questions are asked or identifying information is needed. They are located at Ascension St. Joseph at 5000 W. Chambers St. in Milwaukee.
Here are ten tips for firearms safety provided by Project ChildSafe:
• Always keep the firearm’s muzzle pointed in a safe direction. A “safe direction” means that the gun is pointed so that even if an accidental discharge occurred, it would not result in injury.
• Always keep your finger off the trigger until you actually intend to shoot. When handling a gun, rest your finger outside the trigger guard or along the side of the gun. Don’t touch the trigger until you are actually ready to fire.
• Firearms should be unloaded when not actually in use. Whenever you pick up a gun, such as when removing it from or returning it to storage, remember to point it in a safe direction and make sure it is unloaded.
• Be sure you know how your firearm operates: read the manual on your firearm, know how to safely open and close the action of the firearm and know how to safely remove any ammunition from the firearm and its magazine.
• Store your firearms in a locked cabinet, safe, gun vault or storage case when not in use, ensuring they are in a location inaccessible by children and cannot be handled by anyone without your permission.
• Store your ammunition in a locked location separate from firearms.
• Use a gun locking device that renders the firearm inoperable when not in use. A gun lock should be used as an additional safety precaution and not as a substitute for secure storage.
• Make sure young people in your home are aware of and understand the safety guidelines concerning firearms. Have them sign the Project ChildSafe Pledge for young people—a reminder that if they find an unattended firearm in their home or a neighbor’s to not touch it, and tell an adult.
• Always unload, clean and place your firearms in their secure storage location immediately after returning from a hunting trip or a day at the range.
• Educate everyone in your family about firearms safety. Visit the Project ChildSafe website for safety information and to find out where to get a free firearm safety kit in your area.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a leading organization promoting firearms safety and responsibility in the U.S., launched Project ChildSafe in 1998 (prior to 2003 the program was called Project HomeSafe). Project ChildSafe is a nationwide initiative to promote firearms responsibility and provide safety education to all gun owners.
While children are a focus, Project ChildSafe is intended to help young people and adults practice greater firearms safety in the home. The program has provided more than 38 million free firearm safety kits to gun owners in all 50 states and five U.S. territories.