COLUMBIA — The City of Columbia will distribute free gun safety locks as part of the latest in a series of efforts to promote gun safety.
Council member Aditi Bussells announced the “Lock It Up” campaign at the June 21 council meeting. In addition to gun locks, the city will provide people with “gun cheat sheets” to track the make and model of their firearms, making it easier for authorities to retrieve a weapon. in case of theft.
The padlocks will be available at Columbia Police Department events, weekly Parks and Recreation Prime Time in the Parks parties, and the nonprofit Serve & Connect’s upcoming Be Safe block parties.
By partnering with Serve & Connect, “Lock It Up” goes beyond simply distributing gun locks and strives to involve the community, Bussells said. It follows several other gun safety campaigns in conjunction with local groups and county law enforcement.
Gun safety is now front and center with the idea of the ‘Lock It Up’ campaign after the recent shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers and killed 19 of them. injured 17 others, Bussells said.
“Really, for me (the question) was, ‘What are some of the root causes of gun violence, and then what can we do immediately in the short term to address them as a city? ‘” Bussells said. “And then, of course, continue to work with our community partners and our law enforcement partners to think through and implement some of those longer-term solutions.”
In March, the city council voted to repeal several gun control measures under threat of a lawsuit and the possibility of losing significant public funds because the measures did not comply with state law. ‘State.
Over Easter weekend, three gunmen opened fire in the Columbia Mall, injuring nine people.
While the city’s campaign isn’t directly tied to these events, Bussells said, they are another way to approach the larger issue.
There have been 23 weapons violations in Richland County so far this year, according to the Sheriff’s Department Community Crime Map. This is almost the total number of violations in 2021, which was 29.
In 2020, 1,131 people in the state died from gun violence, according to the most recent statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the highest number since at least 2014, which is the first data available.
One way to tackle the root causes of gun violence is to bring people together and offer them resources like gun locks, said Kassy Alia Ray, founder of Serve & Connect. His organization aims to connect police and citizens outside of emergencies, which is the goal of the organization’s summer block parties.
“Every action we can take to promote access to resources that can help address gun violence is critical,” Ray said.
Serve & Connect isn’t the only group doing this kind of work.
In April, a group of former gang members formed Getting A New Generation Started in Peace, which aims to help stop shootings in Colombia by teenagers and young adults. City and county law enforcement officials met with the group in early June to discuss the work they were doing.
Local school districts, law enforcement and health facilities have partner of the Be SMART initiative to promote gun safety to parents and children through education, presentations and free gun locks this coming school year, said Lara Peck, Prisma’s Injury Prevention Coordinator Health, in an email.
The Columbia Police Department and Richland County Sheriff also partnered with Greater St. Luke’s Baptist Church to host a gun buy-back event June 20-21. Community members were asked to surrender their weapons, no questions asked, in exchange for gift cards. The groups also distributed gun locks and safety tips.
The event had three times as many attendees as a similar event that took place in December, according to a Facebook post on the church’s page. It has also been spurred on by recent events, organizer Pastor Michael Baker said at a June 13 news conference.
“We’ve been inundated with a lot of violence with guns of all ages in our community,” Baker said.
Bussells acknowledged that these initiatives alone are not enough to end armed violence in Colombia. But they are a start, she said.
“When you collaborate and align your work as a city with great things happening in the community, that’s when I think you really start to see change,” Bussells said. “And it was really important for me to act on an issue, even if it’s on a scale that can’t solve the whole issue.”
Contact Skylar Laird at (843) 830-1526. Follow her on Twitter @sky_latte_.