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Gun owners should be aware of safety devices

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Gun ownership in the United States is commonplace. A gun can be found in between 30 percent and 50 percent of American households.

Did you know . . .

A Harvard School of Public Health survey in August 1999 discovered two-thirds of students in grades 6-12 said they could obtain a firearm in 24 hours?

A 1997 survey from the National Institute of Justice found handguns were stored unlocked and loaded in 30 percent of households?

A Peter Hart Research Associates Poll conducted in July 1999 found 70 percent of Americans feel more needs to be done to educate parents about proper gun-storage methods and keeping children safe from guns?

The same poll found 28 percent of gun-owning households with children don't always keep guns locked in a secure place?

With gun ownership and use comes the issue of how to store guns safely and securely. While there are no set guidelines that fit every home or circumstance, there are certain basic steps that every responsible gun owner should take.

One simple way of rendering a firearm inoperable is to take it apart and keep the parts securely locked in separate locations. Children are curious by nature and hiding guns or gun parts will not keep them out of their hands. Ammunition should never be stored with a gun.

While there are many devices designed to keep guns secure, it should be noted no device is 100 percent effective. Some are designed to keep the firearm from being loaded or fired, but they don't prevent it from being handled. And the Consumer Product Safety Commission has found that many locks on the market could be defeated by children. Some devices are containers that hold the gun out of sight and out of reach. Here is a look at some of the gun-safety devices on the market:

Trigger locks: These are two-piece devices that fit around the trigger and trigger guard and are secured by a key or a combination locking mechanism. They do not prohibit someone from loading the gun and they should never be used on a loaded firearm.

Cable locks: These locks can render a gun inoperable and unloadable. They are similar to bicycle cable locks. The biggest weakness with this type of lock is that the cable can be cut.

Lock boxes: Metal lock boxes are designed primarily for handguns. Lock boxes provide reasonable protection for small children, but most can be opened with a pry bar or screwdriver. These boxes do not deter theft unless they are bolted to a floor or wall.

Gun cabinets: These glass-faced wooden cabinets are a traditional way of storing firearms, especially rifles and shotguns. While it allows guns to be displayed it offers minimum security.

Gun safes: Gun safes are the most reliable and secure form of gun storage. Quality and construction (thickness of steel walls, locking systems) vary from model to model. High-end safes provide good security and storage.

Alton Thygerson, professor of health sciences at Brigham Young University, is the National Safety Council's first aid and CPR author and technical consultant. For more information, the National Safety council First Aid Handbook by Thygerson is available in local bookstores.