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Another toddler gun death in St. Louis area renews calls for safety measures like gun locks

Gun locks are advertised at the Kingshighway branch of the St. Louis Public Library on Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2022. The locks are free at all city library locations and some county locations, as well as fire and police departments.
Kate Grumke
/
St. Louis Public Library
Gun locks are advertised at the Kingshighway branch of the St. Louis Public Library on Tuesday. The locks are free at all city library locations and some county locations, as well as fire and police departments.

Local elected leaders are calling on St. Louis gun owners to do more to prevent accidental deaths after a toddler was killed in the city Monday.

The 2-year-old shot himself in the head after accessing an unsecured firearm while he was in a car with his mother on South Kingshighway, according to St. Louis police. He died at a hospital, and his father was taken into custody after admitting that he owned the unsecured weapon, police said.

At least 18 kids have been killed by guns in the St. Louis area this year, and at least five of those deaths involved children killing themselves or another kid. Another 73 children have been injured in shootings, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“My heart breaks any time a life is lost to gun violence and especially with our children,” St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones said. “And we have been giving out gun locks and promoting responsible gun ownership all year long.”

Soon after the shooting, Jones and other advocates sought to remind St. Louisans that free gun locks are available throughout the city, provided by programs like Lock It for Love, which is part of Women’s Voices Raised for Social Justice.

“What this incident shows us is that that kind of precaution needs to be taken not just in our homes, but in our cars and vehicles,” said Cathy Gilbert, a Lock It for Love volunteer. “We cannot leave an unsecured firearm anywhere where a child is around.”

Families can pick up free gun locks at libraries across St. Louis, as well as at fire engine houses in the city.

“Lock up your gun and keep the ammunition stored in another place,” Jones said. “We want to make sure that responsible gun ownership is what leads our communities and will help prevent further tragedies like this.”

St. Louis Public Schools and other city schools have also been distributing gun locks at events through the newly launched initiative Educators for Gun Safety. Superintendent Kelvin Adams spoke out at a recent school board meeting after two students were shot and another was shot and killed just days before the meeting.

“I’m just wishing and praying we were more ashamed of how we seem to devalue the lives of our most precious resources,” Adams said last month. “I am personally simply tired of having to raise this issue up.”

St. Louis Public Library locations have distributed more than 1,100 free gun locks since launching the Lock It for Love program in April. Gilbert said the initiative takes a practical approach to a problem that is difficult to solve.

“The issues that fuel gun violence are far-reaching,” Gilbert said. “We cannot begin to tackle all of them through our organization, but providing gun locks is one way to handle one segment of unnecessary gun violence.”

Follow Kate on Twitter: @KGrumke 

Kate Grumke covers higher education and the many school districts in the region for St. Louis Public Radio.

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