by DREW HOWARD
In honor of National Safety Month, Oakland County officials gathered early last week to promote two initiatives aimed at preventing gun violence, accidental deaths, and youth suicide.
Free gun locks are available across all Oakland County police departments as part of the county’s first initiative, “Lock-It-Up.” Created in 2016, the program aims to reduce the threat of accidental deaths and crimes with stolen firearms through safe firearm storage practices.
During Oakland County’s National Safety Month press conference, Sheriff Michael Bouchard encouraged responsible gun owners to keep firearms locked when out of view.
“We encourage people to take this step, or whatever they deem best for their personal situation, when they’re leaving a weapon out of their custody and control,” Bouchard said. “This makes sure we don’t have tragedies or have a weapon stolen that falls into the hands of a criminal to be used against somebody.”
The presence of a gun lock could’ve prevented a gun violence tragedy in Oakland County several years ago, Bouchard said, in which a police officer was killed with a stolen firearm.
“A Livernois surveillance crew found people who were known to commit criminal acts,” Bouchard said. “They watched them break into a house and went to apprehend them, but on the way out a criminal had stolen a gun in the house.” “They used the gun to kill a police officer,” he continued. “A lock would’ve prevented that situation because typically the criminals wouldn’t have taken the time to look for a methodology to cut or release that weapon.”
Oakland County also announced the formation of a new website that will serve as a central location for school safety resources. District 21 Commissioner Janet Jackson said the page is designed with students, parents, teachers, and professionals in mind.
“Here you’ll find important information on youth suicide, active shooter preparedness, and anti-bullying resources,” Jackson said. “We have also included links to resources and programs related to mental health and emotional health, dating violence prevention, social media safety and more.”
According to Oakland County Health Officer Leigh-Anne Stafford, over half of all firearm deaths in Michigan in 2016 were suicides. Stafford added that nearly half of all suicide deaths involve a gun and that suicides make up two-thirds of all gun deaths in the U.S.
“Suicide is a significant public health issue and often gets overlooked when discussing gun violence,” Stafford said. “It’s the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10- 24 on a national, state, and local level.”
“Gun violence is preventable,” she added. “This is achieved by using a gun lock box to restrict access, by educating children about gun safety, and even asking about the presence of guns and storage practices in other houses before play dates and social events.”
To learn more about Oakland County’s efforts around gun safety and mental health, visit the following links:
School Safety Resource Page: oakgov.com/schoolsafety
Lock-It-Up Initiative: oakgov.com/lockitup
Youth Suicide Prevention: oakgov.com/suicideprevention