Children First: Free gun lock program hopes to prevent accidental shootings

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Saturday, April 1, 2023
Children First: Gunlock program hopes to prevent accidental shootings
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Gun ownership numbers show half of American homes have a firearm but not all of them are locked.

FRESNO COUNTY, Calif. (KFSN) -- Gun ownership numbers show half of American homes have a firearm but not all of them are locked.

Valley Children's Hospital and the Fresno Police Department are taking action to reduce the number of kids injured or killed in accidental shootings.

Surveillance video captured an Indiana four-year old waving a loaded handgun.

Tragedy was averted in this instance but in 2018, two-year old Jace Alexander accidentally shot himself to death with a loaded semi-automatic pistol he found at Fresno home.

"It's the worst type of call imaginable. Anything dealing with children where children are hurt," said Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama.

In June of 2021, three-year old Bryson Vang shot himself to death with a gun he found under his father's pillow at their Fresno home.

Balderrama supports the second amendment but notes a troubling national trend.

"What we do know is every year 1300 kids die, kids being under the age of 18, at the hands of a firearm. Many of those are adolescent kids who happened to find a gun inside the home," Balderrama explained.

Dr. Shannon Castle is Valley Children's Hospital's Trauma Medical Director and a pediatric surgeon.

"When you're talking about a smaller body, your likelihood of having a fatal injury in most of those situations goes up," Dr. Castle said. "I've seen children with firearm injuries as young as six months."

Dr. Castle and Dr. Nicole Webb at Valley Children's Hospital say a simple gun lock can keep little ones safe.

"It's very effective at disabling the firearm and keeping anyone who shouldn't have access to it safe without taking the gun out of the home if it's important to the family," said Dr. Webb.

Balderrama has helped give away thousands of free gun locks through a partnership with Fresno Police and local hospitals.

"We want to be very supportive of individual's right to own a firearm. We're all for that but we're really trying to preach here is just responsible gun ownership," Balderrama said.

Balderrama says gun safes are very effective in keeping little ones away from firearms so that the unthinkable doesn't happen again.

"People think that those are not always preventable and things just happen but those can be prevented and our goal is to give people resources to try to keep their children safe at home," Dr. Castle said.

Dr. Webb says gun locks should be considered even when you have older kids in the house because more and more of them may be dealing with anxiety and mental health issues.

"Guns when used in a suicide attempt, are fatal 90% of the time. Something like pills, which is what I see as an in-patient doctor all time, children who have attempted to take their lives with pills, those are fatal 2-4% of the time," Dr. Webb explained.

In the case of the very young ones, they are very impressionable.

"Talking to your kids and letting them it's not a toy and it's a message that is very important because video games make you think it's a toy," Balderrama said.

"They're very intelligent children whose parents think they don't even know how to find the gun," Dr. Castle added.

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