The New Orleans Public Library and TrainingGrounds are teaming up to bring a free play center to New Orleans East.
Public Health & Safety Campaign Distributes 125 Free Gun Safes at Library
For the past few months, Children’s Hospital, the New Orleans Health Department, and Be SMART have given away free gun locks, safes, and information at a variety of local organizations in an effort to reduce accidental shootings and gun violence. Since June, the Library has hosted four distribution events, helping the three organizations give away a total of 125 biometric gun safes. The Library is set to hold a 5th giveaway at Mid-City Library on Oct. 10.
Guns are the leading cause of death for kids under 18 in Louisiana and across the United States. Educating the community about responsible gun ownership and increasing access to high-quality safety tools is an important step in protecting children and reducing child firearm deaths.
Today, 4.6 million children across the United States live in homes with at least one gun that is loaded and unlocked. Each year in the U.S., 350 children gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else — sometimes fatally.
And, with more than 700 children dying by suicide with a gun each year, normalizing conversations about gun safety and providing access to resources is vital, according to Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the New Orleans Health Department.
“When guns aren’t properly stored, tragedies impacting our children and teens can strike,” Avegno said. “As adults, we’re responsible for keeping our children safe. That’s why it is crucial for us to store guns securely, if we have them – and encourage friends and neighbors to practice secure storage when our children visit their homes.”
Rachel Bailey, the Librarys’ head of adult programming, helped organize the events as a way to help improve communities through addressing issues that directly affect residents.
“Gun violence is a major public health concern, and we were excited at the opportunity to work with Children’s Hospital, the New Orleans Health Department, and Be SMART to help bring information and resources about this issue to our patrons,” Bailey said. “By distributing these resources and tools, we hope to create a more informed, more safe, and more empowered community.”
In August, the Library hosted a giveaway at Nora Navra Library. One attendee, who asked not to be named, said she had recently gotten out of an abusive relationship and bought a gun to protect herself and her young children.
“I put it off for as long as I could, because I do not like guns. But, after my ex pulled a gun on me and my children, I knew I needed to arm myself,” she said. “I have two young children, and knowing that I can secure the weapon gives me real peace of mind. I doubt I would be able to afford this safe, so this really means a lot. Now I feel like I can protect my family from my ex and the gun itself, which was definitely a concern.”
The woman said having the giveaway event at the Library was a huge help.
“It’s great that y’all have this in the neighborhood. I’m a working mother and I don’t have a car, so getting around to other places in the city isn’t easy, but we come to the Library all the time,” she said. “I didn’t even know this was happening. I came here for books, and now I’m leaving with books and the peace of mind that I can protect my family. It’s wonderful, it’s a blessing.”
Jocelyn Pinkerton, the health department’s domestic violence and sexual assault program director, worked with Bailey to bring the Library into this campaign.
“The New Orleans Health Department is dedicated to helping to reduce gun violence in our communities and educating gun owners on proper storing and responsible gun ownership is one clear way we can protect kids and reduce child firearm deaths,” Pinkerton said.
Other public libraries across the country have participated in similar initiatives and Bailey said partnering with outside organizations like these is an important way for the Library to reach communities in unique and impactful ways.
“Locking your guns is a simple way to keep yourself and your family safe, but high-quality locks and safes like the ones we’re distributing are expensive,” Bailey said. “From their origin, public libraries were created to remove barriers to accessing resources, so partnerships and initiatives like this truly align with our mission as an institution.”
Pinkerton said research shows that people are more likely to hear gun safety advice from a medical professional than a law enforcement officer. Furthermore, she said by holding distribution events in community hubs like libraries, health officials have the opportunity to gain trust, visibility, and further their reach to those who need resources most.
“By partnering with the New Orleans Public Library to distribute high-quality gunlocks and information, we’ve been able to increase our impact in communities by meeting residents in a place they feel welcome, comfortable, and can easily access,” Pinkerton said. “This partnership has been truly valuable to our mission and we are excited to continue partnering with the Library to further address gun violence as a public health issue.”
The Library’s next gun lock and safety information giveaway is next Tuesday (Oct. 10), at Mid-City Library (4140 Canal St.) from 5-6 p.m. Supplies are limited and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis and recipients must be at least 18 years old. Please note that firearms are not permitted inside the Library.
Gun locks and safes can also be requested on Children’s Hospital’s website at chnola.org/besmart, along with education and resources. Funding for the biometric gun locks is made possible through a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the City of New Orleans and Children’s Hospital.