A nationwide gun-safety organization and the Illinois State Police began distributing free gun locks across the state April 27 to prevent accidental deaths of children.

Project ChildSafe will hand out 50,000 steel child-safety locks from local police stations and sheriffs’ departments.

“All you have to do is call and pick up safety kits,” said Shari LeGate, a representative of Project ChildSafe. “There are no forms and no questions asked.”

When properly installed, a vinyl-covered cable prevents the firearm from shooting. It is secured by a keyed padlock and is accompanied with firearm safety information.

“Clearly it’s never a bad idea to keep firearms secure in homes if they have children,” said Catherine Griffiths, a representative from the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.

Since 2000 nearly 300 Illinois children have died from firearm injuries, according to the Lieutenant Governor Pat Quinn’s office.

“It’s unacceptable to have children die because of an unlocked firearm,” LeGate said.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2003 statistics report, accidents related with firearms are at a “historical low.”

“In this day and age, children are desensitized to the fact that firearms can be very dangerous if not used properly,” LeGate said. “And there are 240 million firearms owned across America.”

This are enough guns to arm six out of every seven Americans.

“Handgun locks are not 100 percent full-proof, but it’s definitely in the right direction,” Griffiths said.

Project ChildSafe is planning to give out almost half a million gun locks nationally.