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Retired lieutenant creates advanced gun lock after his daughter died by suicide

Posted at 9:48 PM, Dec 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-21 17:02:32-05

UTAH COUNTY — A retired lieutenant with the Utah County Sheriff's Office says he has invented a product to stop children and criminals from being able to access family weapons.

Dennis Harris, who retired last year after 41 years in law enforcement, created the T-Lock in honor of his 15-year-old daughter TaLeah, who died by suicide in 1998 after finding his duty weapon.

"Did I blame myself? I did," Harris said. "I can sit here and tell you, that was the hardest thing in my entire life."

According to Harris, the advanced gun lock has been approved by the California Department of Justice and NTS Wichita, an independent ballistic testing facility in Kansas.

The product, which fits tightly over the slide and trigger of a handgun, has two separate locking mechanisms and comes equipped with a loudspeaker.

Once the lock is applied and the handgun is picked up, the lock beeps four times. If the handgun is picked up a second time, it continues to beep and then emits a very loud siren until a key is inserted.

"It's so obnoxiously loud that a kid most likely is going to put it down," Harris said. "Even if it's a thief, he's probably going to toss the gun on the side of the road."

Harris said he believes the lock is one of the best on the market and is virtually indestructible.

"We used a grinder on it," Harris said. "Then we tried to use a drill, but we have an anti-drill plate where the locking mechanism is. We used hammers. We used pry bars. Sledgehammer. We've done almost anything you can think of."

Last week, Chief Mike Brown of the Salt Lake City Police Department urged parents to do something to stop their children from being able to access weapons after police arrested a teenager who brought a gun to East High School.

"As a parent myself, I am very concerned," Brown said. "We need to stop allowing children to have such easy access to guns."

"That story that you guys aired — I mean, that's one of hundreds of stories that you guys have aired over the years," Harris said. "The biggest concern is, maybe your child may commit suicide — or that someone may steal your gun — and what if they were to use that gun to kill someone else? Those are very hard things to live with."

Harris said he's already sold dozens of the locks to the Orem Police Department and has heard positive feedback from the officers who use them.

More information on the T-Lock can be found on the company's website.

"There's no doubt in my mind that my daughter is okay with this," Harris said. "We did it so that another family wouldn't have to go through the grief that we've gone through... She's with me every step of the way."

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, help is available 24/7 by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visiting suicidepreventionlifeline.org

If you prefer text messaging, simply send the word "HELLO" to 741-741 for free and confidential emotional support.

Additional resources:

  • Live on Utah - Suicide Prevention Coalition
  • Veterans Crisis Line
  • Trevor Project Hotline for LGBTQ teens - (866) 488 7386
  • Utah Chapter – American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
  • Suicide Prevention Resource Center
  • NAMI Utah
  • Lifeline for Youth
  • Reporting on Suicide