Texas gun control advocate prevented from getting free locks

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AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — A firearms trade association distributing taxpayer-funded gun locks to Texas residents to prevent accidental shootings advised the Austin Police Department not to give any to a woman affiliated with a gun control advocacy group, emails show.

The Police Department ultimately rejected Leesa Ross' request last year for 100 cable locks that were being given out as part of a program that followed several mass shootings, including one at a Houston-area high school that officials said was carried out by a teenager using his dad's guns. Ross, whose son died from an unintentional shooting in 2009, advocates for safe firearm storage at Austin schools and gives out gun locks.

Behind the scenes, the National Shooting Sports Foundation had expressed concerns that Ross' gun control associations could risk alienating firearm owners, the Houston Chronicle reported. The foundation was responsible for overseeing a $1 million grant announced by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to flood the state with 625,000 free cable gun locks. The cables are threaded through a gun’s chamber to prevent it from firing.

The group issued a memo to its law enforcement partners telling them not to give the gun locks to members of Everytown for Gun Safety's survivor network and Moms Demand Action, two national groups that support stricter firearm laws. Ross is affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety’s survivor network.

“While I respect her clear commitment to firearms safety,” a consultant for the Connecticut-based gun group, which represents firearms manufacturers and has lobbied against gun restriction, told an Austin police officer in September, “her alignment with (NSSF) Project ChildSafe and our locks could cause controversy given her political agenda and alienate gun owners and those with whom we have the most capacity to effect change.”

Ross, who also is a board member of Texas Gun Sense, said everybody should have access to the locks.

“It’s about saving lives. That is the goal,” she said

Abbott’s office did not respond to questions about the foundation's memo.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation stands by the letter that “requests its law enforcement partners not share Project ChildSafe gun locks with unauthorized groups,” spokesman Bill Brassard said via email.

The Austin Police Department has not responded to questions about the emails or the number of gun locks it has distributed.

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