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St. Paul police, sheriff's office hand out free gun locks in effort to curb violence

Updated: October 08, 2019 10:42 PM

It's been a violent year in St. Paul. Twenty-three people have been killed and 124 have been shot.

On Sunday, a 23-year-old man was killed on the city’s west side. His 4-year-old son was also injured in the shooting. 

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“It’s become emotionally draining,” said the Rev. Runney Patterson Sr., with New Hope Baptist Church.

He’s been with the church for 15 years and sees firsthand the toll of gun violence.

“Heart wrenching, it saddens my heart,” he said. “I deal with this weekly, either from a family that has been a victim of it or a family that has caused these things to happen. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve actually had to officiate two funeral services of young men's lives that were taken from them.”

“It’s mind boggling that we don’t have the love for humanity that we should have,” he said.

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On Sunday, St. Paul police told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that those who are carrying guns illegally are likely involved in the recent shootings.

Two days later, they handed out gun locks in the church parking lot. Police told us they hope if people use locks, it will deter criminals from stealing guns.

“If the wrong person got the gun in their hand, hopefully it will be a deterrent from hurting another person or even take the life of an individual,” Patterson said.

It also gives the community the chance to speak with officers.

“If they know something is going on in their community, we want to know about it,” Sgt. Mike Ernster said. “See something suspicious? Call your local police department, let us know.”

“No matter how big or how small, that information could be the piece that we're looking for,” he said.

St. Paul police teamed with the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is a very fast moving initiative,” Acting Commander Suwana Kirkland said. “We are looking at action steps, what we can do to show the community that we're concerned as well and we want to do whatever we can do to help.”

The agencies have hundreds of locks to hand out and told KSTP they can be used on just about every type of gun.

“For those that are carrying their weapons, carrying them legally, we support that,” Kirkland said. “We want to do whatever it takes to make that safe.”

Locks also can prevent accidental shootings among children, according to law enforcement.

“When they see that this weapon is stored away properly, is not in a dangerous place, that their parents or loved ones or whoever the adult is in the home shows some responsibility in association with that weapon, we hope that has a trickle-down effect,” said Kirkland.

Sgt. Ernster told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS about 1,300 children die from gunshot wounds every year in the United States.

“The most vulnerable people in our homes could accidentally grab onto them and shoot themselves,” said Ernster.

While the city hasn’t had an incident recently, he said this can prevent that from ever happening.

Anyone who wants a lock can call either the St. Paul Police Department at 651-291-1111 or the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office at 651-266-7300.

The locks are provided for free by Project Child Safe, according to police.
 

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Credits

Callan Gray

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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