ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Gun owners and police congregated Tuesday night outside of New Hope Baptist Church in St. Paul not to pray, but to secure their weapons.
“I’m coming to get suited and booted,” chuckled Shanay Dancy, a gun owner.
According to the Gifford's Law Center, 4.6 million U.S. children and teens live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. Household guns, the center reports, are a major source of weapons used in school shootings, suicides, and unintentional deaths among children.
“Hopefully, we can get ahead of that and avert tragedy in St. Paul by providing these locks,” said Sgt. Mike Ernster of the St. Paul Police Department.
Officers also give away the life-saving tools after an unusually high level of violence across the city and Ramsey County.
“I’m glad that they’re free,” said Dancy.
“Having a lock to put on your gun just in case it’s stolen, or someone takes it, they don’t have the opportunity to bring danger to another person’s life,” said Pastor Runney D. Patterson Sr.
Sunday night's double-shooting near the intersection of Wabasha and Congress St. on the city’s west side left a four-year-old injured and without a dad.
“Enough is enough, especially when you have innocent lives being taken,” added Pastor Patterson Sr.
The incident marked St. Paul’s 23rd murder so far this year.
“People who are carrying guns in our city illegally are more susceptible to being involved in gun violence,” shared Sgt. Ernster.
Those who take advantage of the outreach say while it isn't the usual praise and worship you'd find at a church, the event helps lock down guns and build stronger relationships between police and the people they serve.
“It’s just breaking the stigma on all officers being against every person that is a minority or different background stature,” said Dancy.
Any unclaimed locks will distributed across St. Paul police’s district offices. If you’d like a free gun lock stop by either office or department headquarters.