CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Across the country, 4.6 million children live in homes with loaded and unlocked guns.

“Among children ages zero to 12 years old, 80% of those who are killed by guns are killed in their own home,” said Cari Gustafson, a volunteer with Be SMART, an organization designed to help parents talk to their children about gun safety. “in Pennsylvania, the leading cause of death for children is a gun.”

Centre County Deputy Coroner Judith Pleskonko said guns are a common denominator in a rising number of suicides.

“Already in 2022, we’ve had 12,” said Pleskonko. “Of those 12, eight of them have involved guns.” 

On Tuesday, the Centre County Commissioners adopted a proclamation supporting safe and secure firearm storage initiatives.

Commissioner Steven Dershem spoke on the many ways to secure your weapons, including using the locks sold with guns, or using padlocks, lock boxes, safes, or a locked closet.

“As much as we cherish our rights to possess guns, we also have the responsibility to keep everybody safe,” said Dershem.

Free gunlocks and safety kits are available at local VFW’s, American Legions, senior centers, gun stores, and local law enforcement offices.

“If anyone needs one, stop by,” said Centre County Sheriff Bryan Sampsel.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said locking your gun could slow down, delay, or even prevent an incident.

“Children are an important group but also teenagers. They’re young, impulsive, they might spend less than 5 minutes potentially thinking about taking their own life,” said Higgins. “If a firearm is available, easily accessible, loaded, unlocked, there’s a 90% chance they’re not gonna be there the next day.”