Gun lock program suspended after problems found


Tuesday, October 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



STAMFORD, Conn. (AP) _ A nationwide program to distribute free gun locks to protect children has been suspended after police discovered the devices can spring open.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade group based in Newtown, distributed 400,000 cable locks through more than 300 law enforcement agencies before police in Knoxville and Chattanooga, Tenn., reported the problems last week. Agencies in 360 other communities have signed up for the free program, but the locks were not yet distributed.

The foundation said Tuesday that no more locks will be given out until extensive testing is done.

``We've informed all of the municipalities that have already distributed locks of the potential problem and have asked them to send in a sampling of locks they may still have so that we can do a test,'' said Robert Delfay, the group's president and chief executive.

Delfay said a decision on whether any of the locks will be recalled will be made after the tests.

Project HomeSafe began about a year ago, with the foundation promoting it as a way for gun owners to feel more sure that their weapons are safe from children.

The cable locks, which differ from trigger locks, are pulled through gun handles or barrels to prevent the weapon from being fired or loaded. Some of the nation's largest and most violent cities _ Houston, New Orleans, Miami and Philadelphia among them _ participated in the project.

But a Knoxville officer discovered one of the locks would spring open when bounced in his hand. Police found the trait was common after testing the 3,000 locks they had planned to distribute.

Bill Brassard, the project's coordinator, said the locks are made overseas but he didn't know by whom. Officials are checking to see whether the flaw is common to all of the locks, or whether the ones in Tennessee were just a bad batch.

Foundation officials said the failures reported by Tennessee police are the first they have received.

Police in the Tennessee cities said they are concerned gun owners might have a false sense of security about the locks. Delfay said the foundation shares the worry and recommends that all weapons be stored in safety boxes. He said the locks were never meant to be foolproof.

``These locks are not intended to defeat all attempts to open them or destroy them by force,'' Delfay said. ``They're supposed to discourage unauthorized use.''

But he added: ``Even if it opens easier than someone might hope, it is still more effective than no lock at all.''

The foundation represents about 1,800 gun and accessory manufacturers. When the program began, some gun control proponents called it a public relations ploy to defuse criticism and lawsuits filed against the gun industry over the rash of gun violence across the country.