PORTLAND, Maine —- The Maine Police Chiefs Association, in cooperation with Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, is promoting gun safety by giving away trigger locks to residents across the state.
The program has gained traction among the public in southern Maine, with citizens in central and northern Maine not displaying as much interest, police said Wednesday. Those interested in getting a free trigger lock, simple locking mechanisms that block the trigger from being pulled, should contact their local police department for information.
Although there is no official count of how many locks have been given out since the program’s June 12 launch, 5,000 locks have been distributed to police departments statewide. The demand has been very high, according to Portland Police Chief Michael Sauschuck, whose precinct has served as a distribution hub for the trigger locks for both citizens and police departments.
“We can’t keep them on the shelves. We’ve ordered another 4,000,” Sauschuck said Wednesday.
Although the demand in southern Maine has been high, there have been some departments farther north that have seen little to no interest from the public.
The Old Town Police Department has only given out a “couple dozen” according to Old Town Police Chief Don O’Halloran. Aroostook County Sheriff’s Dept. Chief Deputy Darrell Crandall and Lt. Wesley D. Hussey of Maine State Police Troop E in Bangor both reported that no citizens have requested trigger locks.
Despite the lack of demand in some areas, police officials are emphasizing the importance of the program.
“I use [trigger locks] at home. I’m a hunter and a firearm enthusiast, and I always keep locks on my firearms [when I’m not using them],” Crandall said. “You can never be too careful.”
According to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which was further analyzed in a study by the Children’s Defense Fund, 2,700 U.S. children and teenagers were killed by guns in 2010. Eighty-two of the victims were under age 5. Although Maine ranks lower than any other state, with 60 child deaths between 2000 and 2010 because of guns, there is still room for improvement, according to gun safety advocates.
In response to the problem, Portland-based Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence has given $10,000 to the Maine State Police to fund the statewide giveaway of trigger locks. The giveaway will continue as long as demand stays high.
The money for the program was raised through the Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence membership as well as donations from the Maine Community Foundation and the Maine Medical Foundation, and it was matched by a $10,000 donation from the Maine State Police.
According to Frances Buerkens, director of Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, the program also is partially a response to Gov. Paul LePage’s veto of a bill last year that would have required background checks for private gun sales. The bill passed through the House and Senate but was vetoed by LePage, one of a state record 83 vetoes in early-mid 2013.
“Because the governor is still in office, [we’ve taken] measures [to do something] that he can’t veto.” Buerkens said. “Our big concern is public safety and the safety of children. [Trigger locks are] a simple, cost effective solution.”
Buerkens expressed concern that opponents of the program could repeatedly take trigger locks from the police stations, going back every day and and taking more locks so that others couldn’t. However, Sauschuck believes that there is little to no opposition to the program.
“No matter where [people] stand [politically], it’s a natural fit for everybody,” Sauschuck said. “Something like 40 percent of Maine residents have firearms. It’s a program that everyone can get behind.”
For a list of police giving away trigger locks, visit http://mainecitizens.org/triggerlock/.