RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — Guns are hurting and killing too many children in North Carolina, and the governor says it’s time to do something about it.

Monday, he announced an initiative to keep guns out of the wrong hands. It’s called NC SAFE, which stands for “Secure All Firearms Effectively.”

Gov. Roy Cooper says an increase in gun-related deaths and injuries among children and an increase in gun thefts prompted the new initiative.

“A lot of people have bought guns and they don’t really know how to use them, how to keep them safe. Many people who’ve had guns for a long time don’t do the things that they need to do to keep them safe,” he said.  

“According to a 2021 survey, 30 percent of North Carolina high school students say it would take them less than an hour to get a loaded gun and to be ready to fire it without a parent or another adult’s permission. That’s unacceptable,” Cooper added.

Raleigh Police Chief Estella Patterson talked about gun-related crime in Raleigh.

“This year to date, there have been 47 aggravated assaults where a juvenile has had access to a firearm,” she noted.

According to the state health department, 116 North Carolina children died of a gun-related injury in 2021. Experts say safely storing guns can reduce those numbers and save lives, but safe storage isn’t only important in the home.  

“In 2022, here in Raleigh, 582 firearms were stolen from vehicles,” Patterson said.

That’s why it’s also important not to leave guns in cars – especially unlocked cars.

 As part of this initiative, the state is giving out 25,000 gun locks and 200 gun safes and working with communities across the state to get the word out about safe storage.

There is also a program in a number of school districts focused on educating students about gun safety.

To find out more about the campaign and safe gun storage, click here: https://www.ncsafe.org/