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By Barbara Markley, Co-Chair of the Gun Safety Committee for the League of Women Voters of Broward

Locking up guns in the home prevents accidental shootings, reduces crime, and reduces suicide risk – in short, it saves lives. In the U.S., 4.6 million children live in homes with unsecured guns and over 75% of teens who commit suicide with a gun use a gun from home. In Florida, a child is shot every seventeen hours on average and a gun is stolen every twenty-six minutes and is used to commit crime. Most of those guns are stolen from cars. Shockingly, eighty thousand guns were stolen from Floridians in a three year period, making Florida third in the nation for gun theft. One stolen gun can create a ripple effect of death and destruction for years to come. A recent example occurred in Oklahoma where a man was fatally shot with a gun stolen six years earlier from Louisiana, nine hundred miles away.

Clearly, locking up guns would save lives and reduce crime significantly. In addition, gun violence costs Floridians $14 billion each year in medical costs, lost wages, increased security, etc. It is critical that everyone play a part in reducing gun violence. Like MADD’s “don’t drink and drive” we need to change the narrative and empower everyone to work for gun safety in our

There were 40,000 gun deaths in the U.S. last year, the highest number in almost 50 years, and 2/3 of those deaths were suicides. People purchase guns for protection but having a gun in the home can increase the risk for you and your family. The reason is that, while the level of violent crime is holding steady, suicide is on the rise in the U.S. across all demographics. Easy access to loaded guns is fueling this crisis. Studies show that the decision to commit suicide is frequently an impulsive decision, sometimes made in as little as five minutes. Studies also show that 9 out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt will never try again – but the use of a gun is the most lethal and most often fatal method. A sobering fact is that a home with a gun in it is three times more likely to have a suicide than a home without a gun.

Finally, the FBI has studied school shootings and concluded that in 7 out of 10 shootings, the perpetrator obtained the gun from home or from a relative’s home.

In conclusion, locking up guns in the home saves lives preventing accidents, suicides, and theft. In addition, guns should never be left in cars without being locked in an appropriate car safe. It’s the responsible thing to do and  the life you save may be your own – or your child’s.

Barbara Markley is an attorney, an advocate for gun safety, and the Co-Chair of the Gun Safety Committee for the League of Women Voters of Broward. She serves on the Broward Coalition for Prevention of Suicide Lethal Means Task Force and is an ex-oficio member of the Board of Directors for the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The League of Women Voters is nonpartisan and community-based, working to improve government and engage citizens in the decisions that impact our lives. The League is a grassroots organization, working at the local, state, and national levels and is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. For more information about the League, please visit www.lwvbroward.org

If you would like information about the Lock it Up! program, or wish to request a presentation, or obtain free gun locks and brochures, please e-mail gunsafety@lwvbroward.org or call 954-546-4484. Check out the Lock it Up! PSA: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N450qjRESBo&feature=youtu.be