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McLean County Group Sounds Alarm On Safe Gun Storage, Hopefully Before Tragedy Strikes

A gun shop owner demonstrates how a gun lock works on a handgun.
Elaine Thompson
A gun shop owner demonstrates how a gun lock works on a handgun.

A McLean County group focused on stopping gun violence has a timely reminder for parents whose children may once again be venturing to play outside the home this summer.

The Be SMART initiative is an offshoot of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. It’s focused on stopping unintentional child gun deaths and injuries.

McLean County’s Be SMART team is hosting an online program at 7:30 p.m. June 3 focused on safe gun storage, alongside Bloomington Police and the local branch of the NAACP. It’s good timing, as parents are now allowing their children to go into other families’ homes more frequently, now that the pandemic has subsided. Those visits outside the home may bring children in contact with loaded and unlocked guns.

Even if it feels awkward, parents need to get comfortable asking other parents if they have any unsecured guns in their home, said Sheri Strohl, a local Be SMART lead. Think of it like asking safety questions if the other family has a backyard pool, she said.

“You just have to get used to it. Because our kids’ lives are worth feeling a little bit uncomfortable,” she said.

Unintentional child gun deaths and injuries are far too common, Strohl said. Around 4.6 million American children live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked, according to Be SMART. Every year, more than 600 children 17 and under die by suicide with a gun.

There was one unintentional child shooting just last month in Champaign. That one wasn’t fatal, but another one last May in Peoria was.

Bloomington-Normal doesn’t want that kind of notoriety, Strohl said.

“We don’t want to be trending. We don’t want to be #BloNoStrong. We want to be #BloNoSafe,” she said. “We want to prevent (these incidents). And these are completely preventable.”

A Bloomington Police officer will be on hand for the June 3 program, to provide safe storage expertise. There are many options at varying price points, from trigger locks to high-tech safes.

“There are a lot of methods that you can keep your firearms quickly accessible,” Strohl said. “If you think, ‘I really need to get to my gun quickly,’ there are biometric safes that allow you to do that.”

The June 3 program will include Q&A time. Register by emailing McMomsBeSMART@gmail.com.

Ryan Denham is the digital content director for WGLT.