Gun locks are one important tool in preventing violent deaths, Penn trauma expert says

A gun lock is the least-expensive, most effective way to prevent a firearm from being used

Doctors and researchers have recommended safe firearm storage practices for gun-owning parents, such as using gun locks and storing firearms and ammunition separately.

Registered nurse Sunny Vespico Jackson has always worked with trauma patients.

What that means, she said, is that “gun violence has affected every day of my career since coming to Philadelphia.”

A few years ago, she got her dream job — injury prevention coordinator with the Trauma Center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center. So instead of responding to injury, she works to prevent it.

While neutral about gun ownership, she remains passionate about gun safety.

Recently, she received funding from Penn Medicine CARES, a grant program for employees, to buy 200 cable locks to give to gun owners in the city.

There are various designs, but basically, the device includes a locking cable that can be threaded through the barrel — or other opening, depending on the particular firearm — to block the action of the gun so it cannot be loaded or fired.

We spoke to Jackson recently about gun safety.

How can a gun lock make a difference, especially when it comes to protecting children?

Gun locks are good at preventing injuries when a child finds a gun in their home. Anecdotally, several times a year we hear about a child being injured or killed after discovering a gun in the house, in Philadelphia alone. It’s been even worse during COVID-19. One national study showed that accidental gun shots by children increased 31% during the first months of the pandemic.

A gun lock is the least-expensive, most effective way to prevent a firearm from being used. If a child comes across a gun in their home, and it’s locked, they’re not going to be able to hurt themselves or anyone else with it.

In a recent study, researchers interviewed gun owners and their children ages 5 to 14. They asked the parents if their child knew where their gun was or had ever handled it. Of those who said the child did not know, subsequent interviews with the children showed that 39% of the children actually did know. And 22% had handled the gun.

I was one of those kids. Out of pure curiosity, I touched the handle. It was my father’s. I think it was a revolver. I knew I wasn’t supposed to do it. I was scared of it, but still curious. That’s what kids are.

I didn’t grow up in a world where we saw as much gun violence on TV, and owning or carrying was not normalized. But now, I’ve had little kids, maybe 5, ask me if I want to play Grand Theft Auto. They are maybe desensitized. There is maybe a little less fear.

It’s OK to touch the gun on the video game. There are no real consequences. But kids aren’t mature enough to make that distinction between a video game and real life harm from a gun. So, a real gun in your home and a curious child are a bad combination.

How can a gun lock help prevent suicide by a firearm?

Suicide often is impulsive. A person can be depressed and even be suicidal. But the decision to actually take that step and end one’s life is often a moment of impulse. If you have access to a loaded, unlocked gun, you might use it.

But what if, in that impulsive moment, you have to unlock the gun, get the ammunition and take the time to load it? Even that short amount of time can be enough to make a person think, “What am I doing? Do I really want to do it?”

What are other measures gun owners can take to keep families safe?

There are basic rules of gun safety. Whenever you see a gun, assume it’s loaded. Treat it like it’s loaded. That means, when you’re handling it, never have your finger on the trigger until you’re actually ready to fire it.

Never point it toward anything you don’t intend to kill or destroy. We just saw that with Alec Baldwin. His finger was on the trigger, and for acting out a scene in a movie, does his finger need to be on the trigger? He didn’t treat it like it was a loaded weapon. And somebody died.

Store ammunition separately from the gun. The farther the better. So if your child did find the gun, hopefully it’s locked and the ammunition is somewhere they would not guess.

Parents need to teach their children that if they see a gun, they should never touch it, and they should tell a responsible adult. That would be their parent if they’re at home, or their teacher if they’re at school. Just recently, a student at a Delaware County school was found to have a gun. In this case, someone did the right thing. They told their teacher. It turned out to be a BB gun designed to look like a Glock, but it could have been much worse.

Parents should know about the homes their kids are visiting. Is there a gun? Talk with the family to find out how they handle their gun. Is it locked? If not, consider whether it’s a good idea for your child to be there.

Still, the most important thing I would want, if my kids were at a friend’s house and saw a gun, would be to not touch it. Get as far away as possible. Come home, or call me so I can come get you.

Gun violence in Philadelphia has reached an all-time high. What other solutions can be utilized to address the gun violence problem?

This is devastating. It’s proven that in areas with more resources, there is less gun violence. So, clearly, we need more resources.

As individuals, we can fix our outdoor lighting. Light and bright spaces deter crime. Use security cameras. We can clean up our properties and adjacent properties, if they’re vacant. Studies out of Penn’s Injury Science Center have shown that green spaces and clean spaces deter violence.

Take ownership in your own space. Walk your neighborhood in the evenings. Be present. Acknowledge people on the street. It makes a difference. If someone was walking up your street intending to do something wrong, they know that you saw them and may be deterred.

In our city, we need educational opportunities, after-school programs, employment that pays a decent living wage, affordable housing, affordable mental health resources.

For that last one, we’re at a crisis in Philadelphia. If I have a patient who I want to get connected to mental health resources because they’ve grown up with violence, or they may be victims themselves, it might be six to 10 months before a therapist can see them. And then the therapist may or may not be affordable. They’re hurting. They want help. But they can’t get it.

What are your final thoughts about kids and guns?

Talk to them about what they see on video games and on TV. Talk to them about what they’ve seen in their neighborhoods. Talk about how they can make a difference for their generation. Hopefully, our kids can be the ones to break this cycle.

The shooting victims we are seeing are younger and younger. So we’re not that far off when we’re telling a 10-year-old he or she could be the next victim.

Monitor your child’s social media. Talk to them about how to properly resolve a problem. This is so different from decades ago where kids handled things with their fists, and they were all fine the next day.

Tell kids that guns are not the solution to their temporary problems. What’s happening right now may seem really big, but talking through it with a parent or a trusted adult before acting on it with a gun might lead to the positive change we’re all looking for.

In the end, talking to kids openly and honestly about what to do if they see a gun and how to handle situations with guns that they may encounter, could save their lives.

Where to get a gun lock

To obtain a gun lock from Sunny Jackson, with the Trauma Center at Penn Presbyterian Medical Center, email her at

Several other groups in the city distribute gun locks for free, although not all of them have locks all the time. For some, it depends on intermittent grant money. The Philadelphia Police Department has a program, but it is on hold because of supply issues related to the pandemic.

Here are other resources:

Temple University Hospital’s Safe Bet program has distributed more than 8,000 locks to families that have young children and firearms. To obtain one, go to

Philadelphia Sheriff’s Department offers locks at the front desk of the Sheriff’s Office on the 5th Floor of 100 S. Broad Street between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., or call the hotline number at 215-686-3572 and leave your name, number and address.

Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has two initiatives. Behavioral health patients are being offered gun locks through social work. The Family Connects program contacts families during or after an emergency department visit to offer resources, including gun locks when requested. In both cases, CHOP’s Center for Violence Prevention provides them.

Many suburban police departments distribute gun locks through Project Child Safe, a national safety education developed by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the trade association for the firearms industry. Go to and click on “Find a safety kit.”

By Sandy Bauer for The Philadelphia Inquirer

March 23, 2022

*GunSenseUs also has gun locks for distribution.



The gun reform debate is not impenetrable–

just ask gun owners

By Mark McKinnon and Richard Aborn, Opinion Contributors – 02/09/22 The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

2021 saw a spike in gun violence that surpassed even the 2020 surge. At least 12 major U.S. cities broke homicide records, police departments nationwide seized record numbers of illegal guns, and mass shootings like the tragedy at Michigan’s Oxford High School continue to dominate headlines. 

If we want 2022 to look any different, the moment is now for serious, sustained countermeasures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We must not stand silent, yet that’s exactly what Congress seems intent on doing — a silence rooted in the belief that there is an impenetrable divide between gun owners and non-gun owners on gun legislation. But a poll by 97Percent and Beacon Research proves that notion is wrong. 

The poll of more than 1,000 gun owners across the country found that an overwhelming majority support key gun safety policies, including Republicans and National Rifle Association (NRA) members. But most critically, when asked how many of their peers support these policies, the numbers disintegrated.  

As two people on opposite sides of the aisle — who have worked with this kind of data, strategizing on how to move the needle on intractable issues — this disconnect between reality and presumption reveals an opening.  

Eighty-six percent of the gun owners polled said they support universal background checks, with 84 percent of Republicans and 80 percent of NRA members surveyed voicing support. Sixty-seven percent of the gun owners surveyed support “red flag” laws (61 percent Republicans and 57 percent NRA members), which allow police to temporarily remove guns from a person deemed dangerous to themselves or others. Domestic violence offender restrictions, safe storage requirements and distinct markings requirements all polled above 70 percent. 

While other polls have included gun owners in their sample, the 97Percent-Beacon Research poll is one of the only polls to exclusively survey gun owners. This matters because when comparing with polls of the general population, the data suggest gun owners view gun violence as a bigger problem than non-gun owners. For example, Pew Research’s poll from September 2020 found that 48 percent of Americans see gun violence as a very big problem, whereas the 97Percent-Beacon poll found that number to be 70 percent among gun owners. And while a November Gallup poll showed a five-percentage-point drop in support for gun safety measures among the general public (52 percent overall), the Beacon poll demonstrates that gun owners feel differently. 

But the striking misconception the 97Percent-Beacon Research poll revealed is that gun owners assume their peers do not agree with them. For example, 67 percent of those surveyed support red flag laws, but just 26 percent think other gun owners support them.  

It’s not hard to come up with reasons why. From the Kyle Rittenhouse acquittal to the New York gun permit law being debated by the Supreme Court to the stalemate on gun reform in Congress, the news we’re bombarded with every day suggests anything other than gun owners wanting stricter gun laws. And let us not forget that the most well-known and successful special interest group in America — the NRA — has pushed the narrative that gun owners are opposed to any form of gun safety legislation. That’s because they know that any reasonable gun reforms need the buy-in of gun owners. 

It’s time to bring gun owners into the fold. They are the missing piece of the puzzle. One of the keys to passing the Brady Bill and other landmark gun safety legislation was building a wide-ranging coalition that ran the gamut from victims to police officers. It is time to take the next, crucial step in widening that coalition to include gun owners. Imagine gun owners testifying before a congressional committee, calling upon their senators to pass legislation and joining gun safety groups at rallies. 

But advocating for change is a daunting, near impossible ask when you feel like you’re on an island. Joining a coalition is more inviting and realistic when you know you’re surrounded by like-minded folks ready to stand by you. 

That’s why gun owners need to know other gun owners are united in wanting stricter gun laws. Armed with this knowledge, it will ease the pathway to gun owners speaking out and taking control of their own narrative. And it is the responsibility of gun safety organizations to make gun owners feel supported, not marginalized, in advocating for change. Gun owners must be brought into the gun safety conversation, not left out.  

The gun divide is not impenetrable. It’s time we start acting like it.  

Mark McKinnon is a political advisor, reform advocate, media columnist, television producer, and co-host of Showtime’s “The Circus.” He’s worked for many causes, companies and candidates, including President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCain and the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards.  

Richard Aborn is the president of the Citizens Crime Commission of New York City and a former president of the Brady Campaign. He was a principal strategist behind the passing of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act and the Federal Assault Weapons Ban.  Both serve on the advisory board of 97Percent, a new gun safety organization whose mission is to reduce gun deaths in America by changing the conversation.


January 25, 2022

NSSF retailer Surveys indicate 5.4 million first-time gun buyers in 2021

NEWTOWN, Conn. — The National Shooting Sports Foundation® (NSSF®), the firearm industry trade association, revealed that at least 5.4 million people purchased a firearm for the first time in 2021. Nearly 30 percent of all firearm purchases last year went to new gun owners, based on NSSF’s retailer surveys and adjusted National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) background checks.

Retailer Sales Survey

That figure is a 10 percent decrease from the 40 percent of first-time gun buyers revealed in similar surveys in 2020. More than 21 million background checks were conducted for the sale of a firearm then, with over 8.4 million of those estimated to be for those buying a firearm for the first time.

“We welcome these new gun owners to the greater community of law-abiding Americans who choose to own a firearm for lawful purposes, including self-defense, recreational target shooting and hunting,” said Joe Bartozzi, NSSF President and CEO. “The surveys revealed that new gun owners are continuing to embrace their Second Amendment rights and nearly half of them are seeking out professional training. These trends show that not only is there still a strong interest in gun ownership but also that these new gun owners are interested in learning more about the safe and responsible handling, use and storage of firearms.”

Similar retailer surveys in 2020 showed a 58 percent increase of African-Americans buying guns in 2020 vs. 2019, with a 49 percent increase of Hispanic-Americans during the same time period and a 43 percent increase of Asian-Americans buying firearms in 2020 compared to 2019. Nearly 60 percent of retailers said the increase of these demographic groups of first-time buyers purchasing firearms remain unchanged from 2020 to 2021.

NSSF’s 2021 survey of retailers showed several other key findings:

  • Nearly 47 percent of first-time gun buyers in 2021 inquired about training and 43 percent signed up for training.
  • Nearly 23 percent of retailers indicated that first-time gun buyers in 2020 purchased another firearm in 2021.
  • Over 33 percent of first-time gun buyers in 2021 were women.
  • 44 percent of retailers saw an increase of African-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
  • Nearly 40 percent of retailers saw an increase of Hispanic-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
  • Over 27 percent of retailers saw an increase of Asian-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
  • Over 18 percent of retailers saw an increase of Native-Americans purchasing firearms in 2021.
  • Nearly 14 percent of retailers saw an increase of Native-Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders purchasing firearms in 2021.

About NSSF
The National Shooting Sports Foundation is the trade association for the firearms industry.

Gun Violence Archive 2014-2020

David Chipman Nominated to Lead ATF

content by Bill Hamm

Among the important gun violence prevention measures President Biden announced on Thursday, April 8, 2021 was his intention to nominate David Chipman to lead the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.  In the Rose Garden press conference, President Biden described David as “the right person, at this moment, for this important agency.”   We agree.

David has the right experience.  During his 25-year career at the ATF, he was involved with a variety of high-profile cases, including bombings at the World Trade Center in 1993 and Oklahoma City in 1995.  And David supports a commonsense approach on gun measures, striking a balance that allows law-abiding citizens to own guns for self-defense, hunting and sport while also enabling law enforcement to prevent gun violence.

To be confirmed to lead ATF, the only federal agency with the authority to oversee the gun industry, David will need 51 votes in a narrowly divided Senate.  His confirmation is far from certain.  According to Politico, David’s public advocacy for gun violence prevention measures “is likely to spark a brutal nomination fight, making it an early test of the president’s commitment to pushing his gun policy agenda.”

David was a guest speaker at a GunSenseUs event in October of 2019.  A responsible gun owner, David has publicly advocated for policies that align with the GunSenseUs mission, including expanding background check requirements and enabling the temporary removal of guns from anyone shown to be at imminent risk of harm to himself or others.   We wholeheartedly support his nomination.

Please contact your US Senators and urge them to confirm President Biden’s nomination of David as the leader of the ATF.

Daily Local News coverage

Check out this article discussing the evolving picture regarding firearm injury and death and our B.E.T. consensus agenda!

DLN July 2

Daily Local News coverage of our February 26, 2020 “Fast Forward 2020” Meeting!

DLN Article

The evening featured an opportunity for members and guests to volunteer for a variety of assignments. We were delighted with the response!

It’s a New Year…

DLN Includes GunSenseUs views in its “Looking Ahead 2020” article!

The article features a variety of local officials’ forecasts for what 2020 will bring. Check the highlighted text on Page 2 for our remarks!



Local Group Holds Meeting on Gun Safety

October Event Receives Rave Reviews!

We are delighted to report that our October 7 event, Your Best B.E.T. for Gun Safety, was a hit!  About 100 people attended, a mix of existing supporters and those who were new to the group.

Speakers included David Chipman from Giffords (center), speaking on Background Checks and Extreme risk protection orders, and Willie Gonzalez, speaking on Training (right).
We received many follow-up emails stating how much participants enjoyed the evening finding it balanced and informative.



Check out the Daily Local News article about our July Event!

Group Examines PA Firearms Law

Thanks to NRA Trainer and local police officer Rick Craig for giving an informative program on firearm law.  We had an interesting discussion!

All About Background Checks…

We had a great meeting on March 25 where PA State Police Major Scott Price came and spoke about the PA Background Check System.  It was a robust dialogue with diverse views represented.

Thanks to all who joined us!

Gun Sense CC Becomes GunSenseUs!

We always appreciate the great coverage the Daily Local News provides.  Here’s the article about our recent meeting where we announced our “re-launch” under a new name!

Daily Local News Coverage


Gun Sense Chester County In the News!

It was an exciting exchange of ideas as we came together for a visioning session on Nov. 27.  There was a robust exchange of perspectives about what “success” will look like and how we might get there.  Thanks to everyone who joined in!  Thanks to the Daily Local News for covering the event. Click on the link below to see what they reported.

DLN_Gun Sense Chester County 11-27-18 Meeting

Gun Violence and Mental Illness

We had great coverage of our Mental Illness & Gun Violence meeting on Sept. 25

Daily Local News 9-26-18

Andrea Morganstein a licensed counselor, was one of three speakers who spoke about mental illness and gun violence. She pointed out that people with diagnosed mental illness are more likely to shoot and kill themselves than others. Photo by Randy Lyons. 

Coverage Earlier this Year

We are always appreciative of press coverage and were delighted to have two articles in local press this past week.

Here is a link to the Daily Local News article about our meeting on the Cost of Gun Violence.

DLN Coverage, The Cost of Gun Violence  (Please note there was one mis-representation inadvertently made in the DLN article… the presenter said the cost of school security for the WCASD was about $1.5 million over several years. This was noted as an annual cost in the DLN article.

We also got a nice write up covering a presentation we made at West Grove Friends Meeting.

Chester County Press, GSCC Presentation in West Grove

The Chester County Press also wrote a nice editorial on the issue of gun violence:

CC Press Editorial on Gun Violence & Common Ground

Thanks to all those who joined us at these events and to members of our media who help educate our fellow residents about the issue.

Gun Sense Chester County July Meeting:  Considering the Cost of Gun Violence

Thanks to all who joined us for our July 25 meeting on the Costs of Gun Violence.

Main speaker Lee Dastur (pictured below) gave a great overview of the different types of financial costs, including items such as:

  • Medical costs of care for injured
  • Court costs to try gun violence related cases
  • Prison costs for those convicted of gun violence
  • Security costs for schools, court houses, state houses, arenas, and more
  • Administrative costs to run databases such as background check systems and issuing licenses/permits for items such as concealed carry permits
  • Economic costs where injured individuals are not able to pursue the career for which they trained, or perhaps work at all
  • Psychological counseling costs to deal with post traumatic stress following gun violence events

Lee’s commentary was followed by moving narratives shared by retired Emergency Department nurse Dianne Lanham, who spoke of the emotional toll seeing gun injuries and death can take on first responders and medical staff. She spoke of nurses joining together to cry after seeing a young child die following being accidentally shot.

She urged all those who are gun owners or know gun owners to be sure guns are securely stored away from children and teens —  noting that gun suicide is a substantial problem.

Finally, Liz and Joe Loeper, parents of gun shot victim Jamie Loeper, shared the experience of getting a call saying Jamie had been injured and then learning he had died. While his shooting was an accident, it occurred because a co-worker felt he needed to carry a gun for self-protection and then the gun went off accidentally.  Like every other gun death, a tragedy for each of those involved.

How is gun violence costing you? In tax dollars? In changes to the way you behave within our culture? In mourning the death or injury of someone you cared about?

Speaker Lee Dastur

Congratulations Starr!

Gun Sense CC’s Legislative Lead, Starr Cummin Bright was honored with the Lighting the Way Forward Award at an all-star event on April 15.  Congressman John Lewis, a veteran of the Civil Rights campaign and a supporter of the gun violence prevention movement spoke at the event. Congratulations Starr!


Gun Sense Goes to Harrisburg!

Several dozen intrepid members of Gun Sense Chester County rallied in Harrisburg on April 11. Here are some photos.

The “bus group” arrives and prepares to enter the Capitol. Photo by Wayne Hall.

Photo by Randy Lyons

Next up, the “Rally in the Rotunda” with groups from across PA. Our own intrepid Starr Cummin Bright shared her powerful story. (Below)

Photo by Randy Lyons

Finally, signing letters to our legislators and dropping them off in the elected officials’ offices.

A productive day!