[In the player above, watch previous FOX 8 News coverage on gun locks being distributed in Cuyahoga County.]

BEXLEY, Ohio (WJW) — The Cleveland Division of Police plans to offer free gun locks to local residents over the next six months.

It’s joined a new partnership between a national coalition of Black law enforcement executives and gun safety advocates to distribute the locks as well as firearm storage educational materials through the “It Starts at Home” program.

“Each year, families across the United States face the tragic results of improperly stored and unsecured firearms. Sadly, and increasingly commonly, very young children are the victims of these circumstances. Each of these incidents involving unsecured firearms have one thing in common, that they are preventable,” Cleveland Police Chief Wayne Drummond is quoted in the release. “Today and every day, we are urging all gun owners to take the proper precautions to ensure the safe storage of all weapons, especially firearms.”

Also on-board are Ohio police chiefs from Columbus, Bexley and Whitehall, according to a Friday news release.

Patrol officers in those jurisdictions are expected to hand out palm cards with information on safe firearm storage. The gun locks are expected to be distributed at community events hosted alongside Everytown for Gun Safety local grassroots volunteers like Moms Demand Action and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, or NOBLE.

Firearm injuries were the leading cause of death for children and teens in the U.S. between 1999 and 2020, ahead of motor vehicle crashes, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.

Black children are three times more likely to die by unintentional shootings than their white peers, according to the release.

There are about 13 million households in the U.S. in which children live and at least one gun is kept, and about 4.6 million children live in a home in which a gun stored while loaded and unlocked, according to the release.

“An unsecured gun can turn an entire community upside down,” Deborah Grayson, a volunteer with the Ohio chapter of Moms Demand Action, is quoted in the news release.

On May 24, the FOX 8 I-Team reported a 7-year-old girl was shot in the head. Authorities at the time investigated whether the girl was shot by another child “who came into contact with that weapon and fired it,” said police spokesperson Jennifer Ciaccia.

Earlier that month, on May 12, witnesses told Akron police a 15-year-old was accidentally shot in the face while. An 18-year-old was arrested and charged with felonious assault.

On April 4, a 28-year-old father pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of child endangerment and negligent firearm storage after his young child found a loaded gun in a couch cushion and fired it inside their Columbus home, nearly shooting himself in the face, FOX 8 sister station WCMH reported.

The Be SMART model emphasizes adults’ responsibility in keeping kids from accessing guns:

  • Secure all guns in their home and vehicles
  • Model responsible behavior around guns
  • Ask about the presence of unsecured guns in other homes
  • Recognize the role of guns in suicide
  • Tell your peers to be SMART