hand hovering over a hand gun
By Brianna Wilson and Tom Szymanski

UNM Children’s Hospital Giving Gun Locks to Families

Through a partnership with the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), The University of New Mexico Children’s Hospital will be giving out thousands of gun locks to anyone who requests one, free of charge.  The hope is that with more gun locks in more homes, our state will reduce the number of tragedies involving firearms and children. 

The truth is, firearms are the number one cause of death in children and youth in the United States, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the numbers are daunting.

In 2020 alone, firearms caused 10,197 deaths nationwide for people ages 0 to 24 years old.

Nationwide gun injury statistics

Dr. Anna Duran head shot
When we have a child who comes in with a gunshot wound, it reaches all of us, it touches all of us, it touches all our communities. Our job is to educate and help prevent one more tragedy.
Anna Duran, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer, UNM Children’s Hospital

“These deaths now surpass motor vehicle crashes, illnesses, even things such as childhood cancer,” explained Anna Duran, MD, Associate Chief Medical Officer for the UNM Children’s Hospital. “Right now, firearm related deaths are a public health crisis.”

In New Mexico, there were 180 emergency department visits for firearm injuries, among children ages 0 to 17, between July 2022 and June 2023. That’s up from 125 the year before, according to NMDOH.

New Mexico gun violence stats

 Providers at the UNM Children’s Hospital hope offering gun locks will help reduce those numbers now and in years to come. 

“One of the state's initiatives is to make firearms safer, particularly those that are in the home,” Duran said.

In the hope of saving young lives, NMDOH is providing free gun locks to all pediatric clinics across the state. Duran recently received 3,000 for UNM Children’s Hospital.

“We have distributed them to all of our pediatric clinics, our pediatric emergency department, and we're working to get them into our pediatric behavioral health centers as well,” she said.

Duran said any parent or patient can request a gun lock at any time.

“If you have more than one weapon in your home that you would like to secure, ask for additional gun locks,” she said. “Please ask for gun locks for relatives, family, friends, homes that you know have weapons. Any place where you take your child to, if there is a gun that is loaded and unlocked, your child is at risk.”

UNM Police Department Officer Jennifer Lucero demonstrated how to safely use a gun lock in the video below.

Duran said soon providers will add questions about gun safety to their anticipatory guidance.

“We have standard questions about safety, such as car seat use or making sure a parent has a carbon monoxide detector in their home,” she explained. “This is a next step, just making sure if you do have a weapon, how are you storing that weapon? How can you make it safer to have in your home with your child?”

From there, providers may educate patient families about the free gun locks they have and make them available to take home. She said there is no judgement for whether you have a weapon, and hospital staff have no intention of tracking who their gun locks go to. They want to hand out as many as they can, and when they run out, Duran said she will order more.

“It is a natural curiosity for children to want to pick up a weapon,” Duran said. “They sometimes see a weapon as a toy. They don't recognize how lethal a gun can be.”

She also said that a child as young as three years old may have the strength to pull a trigger.

“These are preventable tragedies,” she continued. “When we have a child who comes in with a gunshot wound, it reaches all of us, it touches all of us, it touches all our communities. Our job is to educate and help prevent one more tragedy.”


If you’re interested in more information or want to order a free gun lock for your home, click here.

Categories: Children's Hospital