Gun rights and gun control have long been hot-button issues in this country, but there’s one thing we can all agree on: It’s devastating for a family member to be killed or injured by a gun — especially if that loved one is a child.

That’s why it’s good news that a statewide effort is underway to make it easier for Maine families to store their firearms responsibly. Maine Citizens Against Handgun Violence is launching a trigger-lock giveaway, during which 5,000 of the devices will be distributed at no charge through police departments around Maine.

Supported by the Maine Chiefs of Police and the Portland Police Department — Maine’s largest — the program is a priceless opportunity to put politics aside and take a small but significant step toward preventing tragedy in our homes.

A Children’s Defense Fund analysis of the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data has found that nearly 2,700 children and teenagers were killed by guns in the United States in 2010. Of that number, 82 were children under 5. To put it into perspective, during the same year, 55 police officers nationwide were killed by guns in the line of duty.

Granted, the gun death rate for young Mainers is consistently among the lowest in the country: 60 per year between 2000 and 2010, or 1.7 per 100,000 children ages 0 to 19, according to the Children’s Defense Fund. But this statistic shouldn’t lull us into thinking that there’s little need to do more to further reduce this risk. If even one child in our state dies from a gun injury, that’s one death too many.

The current trigger-lock giveaway is a reprise of a well-received 2001 program. Maine Citizens kicked off that effort by buying 2,600 locks, most of which were given out in the first week; an additional 3,000 were ordered right away, followed by still another order to meet demand. Eventually, more than 20,000 locks were given away through Maine’s police departments.

To fund the giveaway that kicked off Thursday, Maine Citizens has raised $10,000. A list of participating police departments — including departments in Augusta and Waterville — is available online at A gun owner whose local police aren’t taking part still can get a free lock by visiting the nearest law enforcement agency.

Mainers justifiably value the tradition here of responsible gun ownership. We also value the safety and well-being of our children. The distribution of free trigger locks allows us to address both of those objectives at the same time.

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