Johnson County Mental Health Center now offering free gun locks to residents as part of effort to reduce suicide rates

Gunlock with gun

Johnson County’s Mental Health Center is offering free gun locks to residents in an effort to reduce access to the most common method of death by suicide: firearms.

Tim DeWeese, director of the county’s mental health center, said studies have shown that reducing easy access to firearms can have a dramatic effect on suicide levels.

“Research tells us that reducing the availability of highly lethal and commonly used suicide methods has been associated with declines in suicide rates as much as 30 to 50 percent in other countries,” he said in a statement. “Impeding access to highly lethal means of suicide such as guns through the use of gun locks saves lives.”

The free gun locks are available at any of the Mental Health Center’s three locations: 6000 Lamar Ave. in Mission,  6440 Nieman Road in Shawnee, and 1125 W. Spruce St. in Olathe.

The county’s involvement in the distribution of gun locks expands efforts recently undertaken by the Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition, which has worked with local law enforcement agencies and Project ChildSafe to hand out more than 500 of the cable-style gun locks in the area over the past couple of months. The effort has the additional benefit of adding a layer of protection for children who may come across a firearm.

Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition member and Olathe Deputy Police Chief Shawn Reynolds said the locks can provide a crucial barrier to action for people contemplating self harm.

“Good gun safety is simply keeping your handguns and ammunition stored in a way that protects everyone,” said Reynolds. “Means restriction is a scientifically researched process whereby you slow down the process for someone who is contemplating suicide. The Johnson County Suicide Prevention Coalition supports gun safety and means restriction as methods of suicide prevention and keeping children safe.”