Today, Governor Roy Cooper announced the NC S.A.F.E. (Secure All Firearms Effectively) initiative to urge North Carolinians to take action to safely store their firearms and save lives. This call to action highlights firearm safety in response to mounting numbers of deaths of children and youth from firearm injury, along with a surge in firearm thefts across the state.
“For those of us who own guns, it’s our responsibility to keep them safe and out of the wrong hands,” said Governor Cooper. “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.”
There is an urgent need for North Carolinians to safely secure their firearms in order to decrease childhood deaths, decrease firearm thefts, and increase the safety of homes and communities. The NC S.A.F.E. (Secure All Firearms Effectively) is a new statewide initiative that provides resources on best practices for firearm storage and safety. NC S.A.F.E. is not associated with any advocacy-based initiatives related to gun laws or regulations.
“Children are gaining access to firearms in their homes, and gun theft — especially from cars — is on the rise throughout North Carolina,” said NC Department of Public Safety Deputy Secretary William Lassiter. “Today, more than 20% of youth car break-ins involve guns. That’s double what we’ve seen in recent years. We all have to work together to stop guns from getting into the wrong hands.”
“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 Governor Cooper’s ongoing commitment to reducing violence and strengthening public safety in North Carolina. In March 2023, the Governor announced the creation of a statewide Office of Violence Prevention focused on reducing violence and firearm misuse in North Carolina. In 2019, the Governor directed state agencies to close crime reporting gaps between state and federal agencies. The Governor’s budget proposal includes investments in school and community safety, including the Office of Violence Prevention.
Firearms are the leading cause of injury-related death among children and youth in North Carolina. Last year, a Johnston County 2-year-old died from a single gunshot wound to the head after finding his father’s loaded handgun in the front seat of the family’s truck. In April, a 7-year-old in Robeson County died while visiting a family member after the child found a loaded gun inside the residence. Nationwide, an estimated 82% of adolescent suicides by firearm involve a gun belonging to a family member.
Gun thefts have increased across North Carolina. In Raleigh, 211 firearms were stolen from vehicles in 2020. In Durham, 62% of the approximately 185 gun thefts from cars in 2022 were from unlocked cars — meaning these were preventable crimes. According to a 2021 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey, more than half of the firearms that were stored loaded at home—already a safety risk--were also unlocked.
Gun owners in North Carolina can prevent firearm injuries and deaths as well as gun theft through safe storage. There are many ways to effectively secure a gun, including cable locks, trigger locks, gun safes, lockboxes, and gun cases. To secure guns in vehicles, NC S.A.F.E. urges gun owners to both lock their vehicle and safely secure the firearm with a locking device.
Governor Cooper has proclaimed June 4 – 10 as NC S.A.F.E. Week of Action to raise awareness about the importance of safe gun storage. As part of this week, representatives of the North Carolina Department of Public Safety will be traveling across the state to spread this message along with local law enforcement, juvenile justice and other partners in public safety. In addition, NC S.A.F.E. will be encouraging all North Carolinians to secure their firearms effectively and to insist others do in their communities to save lives.
Visit ncsafe.org to find a full list of firearm storage options and a checklist for the steps to effectively secure firearms.
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