COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — Columbus is joining several neighboring cities in promoting gun storage safety through a free gun lock giveaway.

Mayor Andrew Ginther joined Columbus Division of Police Deputy Chief Tim Myers and several other community leaders for a news conference to announce the program on Thursday.

“Guns are the leading cause of death for children and teens in America. Not traffic accidents. Not cancer. Not a virus,” said Ginther at First Grace of God church.

The new partnership brings Be Smart and NOBLE, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, together with Columbus to provide gun locks free of charge at the rest of the ‘Rise Up’ events throughout the summer.

Frustrated city leaders want to take action to prevent senseless gun deaths in Columbus.

“I’m frustrated. I’m angry. Quite honestly I’m pissed. The time for us to act is now,” said Ginther.

“Sometimes the wrong hands are very small. There are some things you will never forget. The first time you respond to an accidental shooting or any shooting of a small child, stays with you,” said Chief Deputy Tim Myers.

“Just this year we have averaged nine firearms recovered every day,” said Myers.

That’s more than last year at this time. as there have been 476 non-fatal shootings in the city of Columbus in 2023, according to Myers. He also said 80% of homicides in Franklin County involve a firearm.

Community advocates reaffirmed the mayor and deputy chief.

“It is not worth it for your mother or your family to come visit you and put what they call it, money on your books. Or flowers on your grave,” said Debera Diggs.

Other advocates, like Ralph Carter with ‘We are Linden,’ said he doesn’t carry a gun. He works directly with the youth in Linden.

“They feel that they have to carry this to be safe. I’m here to tell you, you don’t. Lock your guns. Get control of your kids,” said Carter. “And watch their social media. Because they may be a good steward at home but when they get out there in that community, trust and believe they are a whole different person. and they’re probably carrying a firearm in your home and you don’t even know it.”

Founder of Mothers of Murdered Columbus Children, Malissa Thomas St. Clair, urged those in attendance to stop leaving their guns in vehicles, even if they’re locked.

“I know how many guns are in the hands of youth. And typically it’s because of adult behavior,” she said.

Ginther went on to discuss gun legislation in Ohio and how it hinders his ability to promote safe gun ownership, storage and usage in the city of Columbus.

“Now even the state doesn’t want people to pay taxes on guns and ammunition. You have to pay taxes on diapers, on formula for your baby,” Ginther added.

He went on to explain he believes the city and state need, “Universal background checks. Red flag laws. Particularly when you have the highest amount of homicides coming out of domestic violence that we’ve seen in recent memory. These are things we know we need to do.”

Ginther also believes unsafe gun storage is leading to more crime across the city.

“One of the gangs on the west side has really targeted a couple of different shopping areas around the city. And are funding their illegal crime by stealing guns from cars in those areas,” he said.

This puts everyone in danger, including those in uniform. “Just this year our officers have been fired upon 19 times,” Ginther added.

Columbus Public Health is also providing gun safes and lock boxes for free. They had 25 at the ‘Rise Up’ CBUS event on Thursday afternoon. The table was empty less than an hour after the festivities began. They will continue to provide gun safes free throughout the summer. They gave out more than 1000 gun safes in 2022.