COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus Public Health leaders said preventing gun violence is one of their main goals.

Right now, the organization is focusing on that goal by giving away free safe storage lock boxes.

So far this year, it has given away more than 200 boxes. It is something CPH does year-round, but the effort is being highlighted because of National Public Health Week.

Columbus Public Health Commissioner Dr. Mysheika Roberts said the small box could prevent many gun-related deaths in Columbus.

“We know that several incidents in our community and across the nation are due to people having access to guns who shouldn’t have guns,” Roberts said.

She said safe storage of firearms is key and it takes the whole community to be conscious of that decision to ensure this prevention method works.

“National Public Health Week is just a time to highlight some of that work, but it’s important because so many of these homicides in our community and suicides are preventable with the appropriate interventions, whether it’s mental health services, whether it’s just support services, or whether it’s a gun lock box,” Roberts said.

Roberts said gun violence is considered a public health crisis in Columbus.

The lockbox initiative has become more important with the new gun legislation passed by the city council in December and the recent uptick in homicides in the city.

So far this year, there have been more than 40 homicides in the city with at least five of those happening in the last few days.

In 2022, Columbus Public Health gave away more than 1,000 safe storage lock boxes.

Roberts said she knows the violence will not stop overnight, but this initiative can be a start.

“The fact that someone is coming in voluntarily asking for that shows that someone really wants to protect their loved ones as well as their guns,” she said. “And so, we love that, and we want to see more people proactively either calling or coming in to get them.”

The lock boxes are completely free to all Columbus residents and can be obtained by calling Columbus Public Health at (614) 645-7417.

Roberts said they are planning to also give these lock boxes away at future community events.