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Thursday, August 21, 2014, 3:02 p.m.
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Project ChildSafe

Searcy Police Department strives for gun safety with program

By Lisa Burnett

This article was published January 9, 2014 at 12:00 a.m.

steve-hernandez-public-information-officer-for-the-searcy-police-department-shows-one-of-the-free-project-childsafe-gun-locks-installed-on-a-pistol

Steve Hernandez, public information officer for the Searcy Police Department, shows one of the free Project ChildSafe gun locks installed on a pistol.

In an ongoing effort to prevent gun accidents, the Searcy Police Department will continue its participation in the Project ChildSafe program this year.

Project ChildSafe is a nationwide program that promotes safe firearm handling and storage practices by firearm owners through the distribution of safety-education messages and free safety kits, according to the project’s website.

The Searcy Police Department has been a part of this program for many years.

“Ever since it came out at the national level, it’s been here. too,” said Steve Hernandez, public information officer for the Searcy Police Department.

Project ChildSafe has been in place since 2003.

Each kit includes a cable-style gun-locking device and a brochure that discusses safe handling and storage of firearms.

Hernandez said it’s important to have these safety kits available to the residents of Searcy.

“Everybody has guns in their houses, and this is a good way to keep their guns safer if they have children around,” he said.

Hernandez started his career at the Searcy Police Department, and he then worked for the White County Sheriff’s Office before returning to the Police Department.

“When I came back here, I had been at White County for the last six years, and there was one case in particular where a child had picked up a gun and killed another child with it on accident,” Hernandez said.

According to the Project ChildSafe website, millions of Americans own firearms, and more people choose to become gun owners every day.

“People will say, ‘Oh, I don’t really want [a safety kit],’” Hernandez said. “Older people will say, ‘Well, kids don’t live here, but I do have grandkids that come over,’ and that’s usually the instance where they’ll take a lock.”

Hernandez said the gun-safety kits are available from almost any law enforcement agency.

“Anyone can come into our front lobby during business hours, and we have a display out there, and they can go grab one,” Hernandez said. “This is a good way to keep guns safer if [people] have children around their house.”

Hernandez said that if a person doesn’t have a lock for a firearm, sometimes guns are placed in a gun cabinet.

“If you’re somebody who doesn’t have a gun cabinet, [the locks] are inexpensive because they’re free,” he said. “It doesn’t take long to put the lock on there, and if you’re going to have guns, it also might help prevent a theft case. If [a thief] gets your gun and it has a lock on it, then what good is it to them?”

When members of the Police Department participate in festivals and other community events, Hernandez said, he and the other officers bring gun locks to give to the public.

If putting a lock on one gun will protect one life or prevent an accident, he said, “it’s well worth whatever money is being spent [on the project].

“You can’t put a dollar amount on a life.”

Staff writer Lisa Burnett can be reached at (501) 244-4307 or lburnett@arkansasonline.com.

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