June 11, 2014 - While supplies last, Oxford and Addison residents are invited to obtain free gun safety locks from their local law enforcement agency.
Oakland County Sheriff's Sgt. Scott Patterson (left) and county Commissioner Mike Spisz (R-Oxford) are inviting folks to pick up a free gun lock at the sheriff's substations in Oxford and Addison townships or at the Oxford Village Police station. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Project ChildSafe, a nationwide program that promotes the safe handling and storage of firearms, donated 2,000 gun safety locks to be distributed to the public through the Oakland County Sheriff's 16 substations along with 36 local law enforcement agencies spread throughout the county.
The locks are available at the Oxford Village Police station (22 W. Burdick St.) and the sheriff's substations in both Oxford (2119 Lapeer Rd.) and Addison (1440 Rochester Rd.). Each lock comes with a brochure containing valuable information regarding the safe handling and storage of guns.
Locks are available to Oakland County residents only and are limited to one or two per person, according to county Commissioner Mike Spisz (R-Oxford).
"You can't come in and ask for 10," he said.
The giveaway is designed to help increase public awareness regarding gun safety.
Spisz is a member of the county's Curbing Gun Violence Study Group formed in February 2013 in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut that claimed the lives of 20 children and six adults.
The group, which issued a report in July 2013, explored the issue of gun violence from many different angles ranging from preventing children's access to firearms so they don't hurt themselves or others to dealing with mental illness.
"One of the things we wanted to make sure didn't happen was in many cases, you form these study groups, you put a report out, the report goes into a file and nothing gets done," Spisz said. "We wanted to take those findings and actually put some things into action."
"Through some investigation we came across Project ChildSafe," he continued. "That's a national organization that has given away (more than) 36 million gun locks to date. We contacted them to see if they were interested in doing some partnerships and they were."
Spisz noted many local police agencies already partner with Project ChildSafe, but this is the first time there's ever been a full-scale, countywide collaboration with the program.
"We felt it was a good idea to help get the word out (given) all the (gun-related) tragedy that's been happening," said Spisz, who is a gun owner.
Sponsors for the gun lock giveway include the sheriff's office, county Board of Commissioners, Crime Stoppers, local law enforcement agencies and Project ChildSafe.
In addition to gun locks, the county is also offering a free eight-hour first aid course to teach people about mental health issues and instruct them in what to do if they encounter an individual experiencing a mental health issue or crisis.
"Based on some of the data we found, only 4 percent of all violent crimes are due to mental health (issues)," Spisz said. "However, a majority of the mass shootings are due to mental health (issues). But mass shootings only make up a small portion of the overall gun violence around the country."
Back in February, Training and Treatment Innovations (TTI), Inc. was awarded a $500,734 grant from the Michigan Department of Community Health to coordinate and deliver free mental health first aid training in Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.
"From what I understand there's been, I think, 100 to 125 training classes (conducted) to date," Spisz said. "I think there's only enough grant funding available for another 20 to 30 classes."
For more information about the classes or to find one near you, please call TTI at (248) 524-8801 or the Oakland County Community Mental Health Authority at (248) 858-1210.
As part of the Curbing Gun Violence Study Group's work, three public service announcements (PSA) were created through a partnership with retired WXYZ Channel 7 newscaster Diana Lewis.
The PSA topics include gun safety locks, mental health and violent video games, according to Spisz.
"They're available right now to almost anybody that wants them," he said.
Spisz said the PSA regarding gun locks previously aired on Oxford Community Television (Channel 191 for Charter subscribers and Channel 99 for AT&T U-verse customers).
As a result of the Curbing Gun Violence Study Group's work, the county Board of Commissioners approved a resolution requesting the state Legislature provide some type of funding mechanism to help school districts and/or local law enforcement agencies pay for school liaison officer programs.
"The ultimate goal is to ensure that every school district in the State of Michigan has an opportunity to get a school liaison (officer)," Spisz said. "It was something we felt was important."
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.