September 19, 2019

Trigger lock giveaway effort off to fast start

BANGOR – A Presque Isle TV station announced a free trigger lock giveaway on its broadcast Thursday night. While the foundation sponsoring the program was announcing it at press conferences around the state Friday morning, the phone at the Aroostook County Sheriff’s Department was ringing off the hook. By noon Friday, all 60 of the allotted trigger locks were spoken for.

“I wanted a lot more, but that’s all they could give me,” Aroostook County Sheriff Theodore St. Pierre said Friday afternoon. “I figure about one lock per household is what we’d really need.”

St. Pierre said that he tried to limit distribution to people living in unorganized townships in the County. “I tried to steer people living in towns to their local police departments.”

At least 2,500 locks will be distributed through county and municipal police departments on a first come, first served basis throughout the state by the Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence Foundation. The organization was founded in March by its sister organization, Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence, a group that lobbies for gun control legislation. Both organizations share the same directors and officers and maintain a joint office in Portland.

According to information provided by the organization, more than 100 people in Maine die each year as a result of gunshot wounds. Approximately 85 percent of those are listed as suicides, 12 percent as homicides, 2.5 percent as accidents and 0.5 percent as legal interventions, according to statistics from the Office of Data Research and Vital Statistics at the Maine Department of Human Services’ Bureau of Health.

Bangor Police Chief Donald Winslow participated Friday morning in one of seven press conferences held around Maine. Winslow, who is a foundation board member, demonstrated for local media how the locks work using a handgun.

Winslow first unloaded the weapon, double-checking to make sure all bullets had been removed. Using a key, he then separated the two sections of the lock. One part had a ratcheted post about 2 inches long, designed to fit into the other section of the lock.

“You place the ratcheted post in behind the trigger,” he said while putting the lock in place, “and line the other section of the lock up with the ratcheted post. Check to make sure it is in place and locked. Be sure to keep the bullets and the keys to the trigger lock in a secure but separate place from where the gun is stored.”

Winslow said that gun owners living in and around Bangor may pick up trigger locks at the Bangor police station on Court Street. He added people will not be asked to give their names, but will be asked what community they live in. Only two locks will be given out per person, he said. The Bangor Police Department has been given 100 trigger locks for distribution.

The Old Town Police Department received about 60 locks, some of which will be given to officers, according to Chief Donald O’Halloran. He said Friday that his department has never given away gun locks before. Old Town will begin distributing them to the public Tuesday, but will give away only one lock per household.

The Maine foundation’s trigger lock program is being paid for by a grant the group received from a national foundation. George Silverman of Portland, a board member who attended the Bangor press conference, said he believed this was the first statewide trigger lock giveaway in Maine. The foundation, however, is not the first organization to give away trigger locks. Over the past four years, Acadia Hospital in Bangor has distributed 8,000 free trigger locks to area gun owners.

Other departments participating in the program include the sheriff’s departments in Hancock, Oxford, Sagadahoc and Somerset counties, and municipal departments in Bar Harbor, Dover-Foxcroft, Farmington, Fort Fairfield, Gouldsboro, Lincoln, Skowhegan, Swans Island, Thomaston, Wiscasset and Veazie. People wanting to obtain trigger locks should call the department nearest them.

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