North Carolinians are being urged to store their firearms safely as part of a statewide initiative launched this week by Gov. Roy Cooper.
Known as NC S.A.F.E., or Secure All Firearms Effectively, the initiative—which comes with a budget of just over $2.5 million—was rolled out by the Democratic governor on June 4 and will last until June 10.
It follows a rise in the number of firearm injury-related deaths among children and youth as well as a surge in firearm thefts across the state.
As part of the campaign, representatives from the Department of Public Safety—joined by local law enforcement, juvenile justice, and other partners in public safety—will travel across the state to encourage North Carolinians to secure their firearms effectively.
The department will also be distributing 25,000 cable gun locks and 200 gun safes for free as well as providing various other materials aimed at promoting safer storage, including an interactive map showing gun owners nearby locations where they can temporarily store their firearms outside their homes.
A study published in JAMA Network Open in March found that the majority of Americans keep their firearms locked in a safe as opposed to other locking mechanisms such as cable locks and trigger locks.
Additionally, North Carolina officials will equip local law enforcement, doctors, and school personnel with the resources they need to teach community members how to prevent children from accessing guns.
Firearm-Related Deaths Among Children
In a statement announcing NC S.A.F.E, Cooper said that firearms are now the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in North Carolina, pointing to official data (pdf) showing that 116 North Carolina children died from firearm-related injuries in 2021.
According to that data, published by the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, child firearm injury hospitalizations increased by 120 percent across the state from 2016–2020 and child emergency department visits for firearm injuries increased by 68 percent from 2017–2021.
Overall, more than half of firearm-related deaths in the state are suicides and more than 4 in 10 are homicides, according to the data.
Meanwhile, separate data show that firearm thefts have also increased across North Carolina, including 211 firearms stolen from vehicles in the capital city of Raleigh in 2020. Last year, 582 firearms were stolen from cars in the capital city, and 179 have been stolen so far this year, according to Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson.
The latest initiative comes amid a string of recent shootings in North Carolina, including one near Brogden Middle School in Durham that killed two 16-year-old boys and wounded another teenager.
In May, a 15-year-old boy was fatally shot in the head by a 14-year-old who was later charged with possession of a stolen firearm.
Responsible Gun Ownership
“For those of us who own guns, it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and out of the wrong hands,” said Cooper in a statement. “Safe storage is an essential part of responsible gun ownership, and this initiative will encourage North Carolinians to safely secure their firearms in their homes and vehicles.”
Elsewhere, North Carolina Department of Public Safety Deputy Secretary William Lassiter noted that around 20 percent of youth car break-ins involve guns, which is double what the state has seen in recent years.
“We all have to work together to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands,” Lassiter said.
“Too many of our children are dying from gun violence, and it simply does not have to be this way,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “If you own a gun or are thinking of buying one, lock it up and keep it secured so it’s not stolen or lost. Our children’s lives may depend on it.”
The NC S.A.F.E. initiative is part of Cooper’s push to reduce violence and bolster public safety in North Carolina, although the Democrat has repeatedly found himself in opposition with gun rights advocates over the move.
In March, Cooper announced the creation of a statewide Office of Violence Prevention, which will work in tandem with state agencies in treating violence involving guns as a public health crisis and focus on reducing violence and firearm misuse in North Carolina.
The governor’s latest budget proposal also includes additional investments for that office as well as school and community safety.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times