A warm day outside Longmont’s Safety and Justice Center saw volunteers passing out gun safes for homes and vehicles.
The Safe Storage Giveaway on July 24 was sponsored by United Church of Christ, or UCC Longmont. The safes were purchased by UCC Longmont through a combination of ministry initiatives and community funds donated through the Longmont Community Foundation.
“The church put up $25,000 and so far the community has given us $22,000 to match that,” said Senior Minister Sarah Verasco of UCC Longmont. “This idea originated with the church and we asked Longmont Public Safety to partner with us. Kay Armstrong is a rockstar, and she jumped right in.”
Kay Armstrong, Outreach Manager for Longmont Public Safety, was present at the event, along with Longmont Public Safety’s Range Coordinator, Megan Grant. Joining them were members of the Community Emergency Response Team, or CERT, and Steve Johnson, the fire safety education volunteer that runs Longmont Public Safety’s Safety House program.
“The turnout has been really great, and really surprising. I’m glad so many people are interested in safely storing their firearms and learning more about the other programs that the city has,” Grant said. “It was great of the church to come and offer up such a big investment in gun safety to the community.”
“The Safety House was a nice bonus,” Verasco said. “We didn’t know it was going to be here and that’s great.”
The Safety House is modeled inside a tiny house, and Johnson brings it out to schools and events to show the community fire fighting equipment and potential safety hazards inside a home.
“We want kids to be able to interact with first responder equipment,” Johnson said. “When we’re at a school group we talk about the role of first responders. We follow the FEMA curriculum to make sure we’re giving accurate information.”
According to Verasco, there were at least a hundred people from Longmont and more than a dozen from outside the county that came by to pick up gun safes and chat with volunteers. The volunteers came in from a mix of secular and interfaith organizations connected to UCC Longmont.
“I feel very passionate about the safety of guns in our community, and that’s why we’re out here doing this project,” said Karen Henderson, a volunteer from UCC Longmont. “We want to provide people with ways to keep their guns safe in their home.”
Lois Joyce, a volunteer from the Longmont Shabbat group and Moms Demand Action, was helping pass out the gun safes alongside Henderson, Verasco and other volunteers. According to Joyce, volunteering for the event was an obvious choice.
“Too many guns are stolen from houses, and too many children get their hands,” Joyce said.
Ann Noonan came to help the Safe Storage Giveaway as a volunteer for Out Boulder County. Noonan has worked in behavioral health for thirty years and has seen first-hand the impact of gun violence from suicide, homicide and accidental death.
“It’s always a tragedy and anything we can do to slow down access to weapons is important,” Noonan said. “I feel very passionate about reducing every bit of that harm, and who couldn’t be for safer storage? This is not a pro or anti-firearm issue, it’s just for safe storage.”
In total, the safety effort gave away 138 biometric pin-code safes and 55 vehicle lock boxes by the day’s end. The vehicle lock boxes in particular went fast, and UCC Longmont volunteers had to pick up another half-dozen from Murdoch's Ranch and Home Supply before the event was over.
“Our next event is a gun buyback. People who have guns they no longer want can exchange them for gift cards,” Versaco said.
The firearm buyback is still in the planning stage, but is scheduled for September 25 at UCC Longmont, in partnership with Out Boulder County, Longmont Public Safety and the Longmont Community Foundation.