Free gun locks offered by CCPD following teen shooting death; police, gun expert urge proper use, storage of firearms
Police in Cape Coral are handing out free gun locks to promote firearm safety among residents, an effort sparked by an unfortunate tragedy that prematurely ended the life of a local teen last month.
Colton Hutchinson, 14, died of a gunshot wound in a Cape Coral home Dec. 8. The gun that police believe accidentally discharged was reportedly handled by a 12-year-old friend and was one of three handguns that police say belonged to the second youth’s father, David Casman.
Casman was charged with culpable negligence in the incident because he allowed the minors access to the firearm, which was not properly secured, according to police.
“Regrettably there’s nothing we can do to change what already has happened,” said Police Chief Rob Petrovich. “I think what’s important about this is the potential and possibility maybe that without us ever knowing it, someone took advantage of this program…”
CCPD is providing 500 free cable gun locks on a first-come, first-serve basis as part of a nation-wide federal gun safety program, “Project ChildSafe.” The project is part of a Bush administration initiative to prevent gun violence, which is supported by the firearms industry, U.S. Department of Justice and the National Shooting Sports Foundation, according to city spokesperson Connie Barron.
Ultimately, though, the responsibility of home gun safety doesn’t lie with the Police Department, Petrovich said.
“I think the responsibility lies within the home,” Petrovich said. “For anybody to have a firearm, which they’re allowed to do by their constitutional right — we’re not here to prohibit that — they need to and should do it safely and responsibly. Though we’re not responsible for what happened that day or what could happen in the future, I think in the partnership of the community you try to take an approach where you can be helpful to those people who want to be responsible.”
According to Officer Gerald Moll, who contacted Project SafeChild to acquire the cable locks, Florida law makes allowing access of an unsecured firearm to a minor a felony offense.
“Thirty percent of handguns (nationally) are stored unlocked, and not secured, and are accessible by a child, and we’re trying to reduce those numbers,” Moll said Friday.
Moll said, according to local retailers, gun sales have gone up.
“I really don’t think the increase in firearm sales is germane,” said Tom Samean, owner of firearm retailer and semi-private gun owner’s club Citadel International, located at 918 S.E. 14th Ave. Samean is a licensed NRA pistol, shotgun and personal protection instructor, as well as range safety officer. “There’s a definite increase in sales because of the increase in crime.”
The demographic of Citadel International’s customers is largely composed of new homeowners in the Cape, who are typically 40 years old to mid 50s, Samean said. Home safety is a common motivation for the customers’ purchases of the firearms, he said.
Samean expressed concern that many individuals who purchase guns don’t read the owner’s manual thoroughly and don’t fully understand proper safety procedures.
When guns are purchased at a gun show rather than from a reputable dealer, many don’t even come with owner’s manuals and are shoddily made, which makes them dangerous to operate, Samean said.
“Both the gun owner and the minor children in the house need to be educated,” he said. “If they do not enforce what they have learned, it does absolutely no good. You could have all the locks in the world, you could have all the education in the world, but if you don’t employ it you waste your time. I recommend the firearm safety course be taken by every gun owner. When that bullet leaves the barrel you cannot take it back.”
Additionally, Samean suggested it isn’t enough to merely use cable gun locks, but that gun owners should ensure children can’t have access to firearms per Florida law and, if possible, to use a fingerprint-accessible gun storage device called “bio safe.” The safe allows quick access to a firearm for home safety and will keep minors from handling the weapons, he said.
Samean said three important rules of firearm safety to remember are:
* Keep the muzzle pointed in a safe direction.
* Keep your finger off the trigger until you’re ready to shoot the gun.
* Keep your guns locked until you’re ready to use them.
The gun locks are available at the front desk in the main lobby of the Cape Coral Police Department, located at 815 Nicholas Parkway E.
For more information, residents can call the CCPD Crime Prevention Office at 242-3710.