The difference between life and death can be a loop of metal cord connected to a padlock.

A gun lock, in other words.

We’re pleased that the Baker County Sheriff’s Office, in partnership with the District Attorney’s Office, is offering free gun locks.

But this is only the first step.

And it’s not the most important one.

Gun owners who don’t already securely and safely store their firearms first need to take advantage of this opportunity by picking up a lock at the Sheriff’s Office, 3410 K St.

And then they need to properly install the lock, and to use it consistently.

In a press release announcing the gun lock giveaway, the Sheriff’s Office noted that the community has had “several tragedies.”

On Nov. 4 a 2-year-old Baker City boy, Liam Paul Lee Mankins, died after shooting himself with an unsecured handgun in his home.

In September 14-year-old Izah Nicholas Gonzalez died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Responsible gun owners ensure their weapons aren’t available to people who shouldn’t have them. Cost has never been a convincing excuse — gun locks are much less expensive than, say, a safe.

But the Sheriff’s Office program eliminates even that paltry excuse.

— Jayson Jacoby, Baker City Herald editor