Steamboat gun store owner joins statewide suicide prevention effort
The services aren't new to local gun shop, but the statewide effort is
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A local gun store owner has joined the first online out-of-home firearm storage map in the country, which launched in August.
Faculty members with the Colorado School of Public Health and University of Colorado School of Medicine at the Anschutz Medical Campus created what they call the Colorado Gun Storage Map, aimed at helping the public easily locate places to temporarily and voluntarily store firearms.
“Our goal with creating this resource is to improve community safety and prevent suicide by reducing the time it takes for people to find and reach out to local storage options, which is a challenging landscape to navigate,” Sara Brandspigel, assistant director for the Program for Injury Prevention, Education and Research at the Colorado School of Public Health, told The Denver Channel.
In 2017, Colorado recorded 1,175 deaths due to suicide — the highest number in state history, according to the Colorado Center for Health and Environmental data. Firearms were involved in half of those incidents. More than 80% of adolescents who committed firearm suicide used a family member’s gun.
Ken Constantine’s Elk River Guns is among almost 50 gun stores across the state listed on the gun storage map. About 15 law enforcement agencies, as well as certain pawnshops, self-storage units and college campus safety departments also provide gun storage.
While the online map is new, Constantine’s services are not. He has offered to store people’s firearms since he opened his store in Steamboat Springs 13 years ago.
“Anytime anyone asks me to do that, I have done it,” he said.
Like Brandspigel, Constantine sees gun storage as a way to prevent people in crisis from harming themselves.
“There is a chance it may have saved someone’s life,” he said.
Constantine does not charge for the service and returns the firearms upon request.
He also stores guns that have been temporarily revoked as the result of a court order, with the aim of keeping them out of the hands of dangerous people. One set of firearms currently in his shop has been there about five months after a judge demanded their surrender following a domestic dispute, Constantine said.
“Once the matter is cleared up, the guns are returned,” he said of such cases.
Gun stores have been the primary location for people to store their guns under the new initiative. Few law enforcement agencies offer the service.
Steamboat Springs Police Chief Cory Christensen said storing the public’s firearms presents several logistical challenges, namely conducting background checks and finding a time to take and return the guns. For that reason, his department does not consider requests to store firearms, except during certain responses to criminal activity.
“I do not want to be responsible for other people’s stuff like that,” Christensen said.
With Constantine well-versed in the storage service, Christensen also did not see a need for the Police Department to take on the task.
The Gun Storage Map is available to the public on the website of the Colorado Safety Coalition, a group of gun shop owners, firearm trainers and public health researchers who collaborated on the project.
The website lists other reasons, apart from preventing suicide, why people may want to temporarily store their guns. These include traveling out of state for an extended period or securing the weapons while children are visiting or a couple is going through a difficult divorce.
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