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Texas handing out gun-safety locks

Project Child Safe this year aims to give 750,000 locks

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AUSTIN, Texas — Police departments in Texas have started distributing thousands of gun safety locks for free as part of a five-year, $5 million state-funded program.

Then-Gov. George W. Bush announced the project last year during his run for president, but the giveaway was delayed when flaws were discovered in the design of the locks. The problems have since been corrected, and some police departments have begun handing out the locks.

"If you want gun locks, we've got 'em," said Sgt. James Serrato, who oversees the program for the San Antonio Police Department.

A shipment of 25,000 locks arrived at the department on June 14, and about 16,000 have been distributed at gun shows, malls and police substations, Serrato said.

"One of the comments we received at one of the gun shows is, 'This is one of the best things you have ever done.' They were able to see something tangible being given back by the government," Serrato said.

The devices consist of a lock and a braided steel cable that is inserted into a gun's barrel, preventing it from being loaded or operated. They can be used on handguns and on many rifles and shotguns. They typically retail for $10.

The giveaway program, called Project Child Safe, calls for the distribution of 750,000 cable locks this year.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a Connecticut-based gun industry trade group, is responsible for buying the locks and distributing them to law enforcement agencies.

Last year, locks shipped to Texas cities had to be recalled after testing found they could open if hit hard enough. The cables were strengthened and the locks improved to make the device more secure, said Bill Brassard, a spokesman for the shooting foundation.

The group is working with the federal government on a national gun lock distribution program.

Gov. Rick Perry's office said the Texas program will be reassessed after its first year. Bush originally said distribution of free gun locks would continue for five years.

Texas lawmakers proposed bills this year that would have required gun dealers to provide gun locks with all firearms they sold. The bills died in committee.