Despite insistence and perseverance by gun enthusiasts, deadly weapons are not casual attire nor wise household bric-a-brac, guaranteed by the Constitution.
Guns, and handguns in particular, are fiercely lethal devices that intentionally and unintentionally perform exactly what they were designed to do: fire rounds of deadly bullets.
State lawmakers this week are seeking a new law to try to curb the number of people, mostly children, who come across guns recklessly kept in sock drawers, night stands and old luggage, and shoot themselves or others.
An Associated Press story this week reports that in the last decade, 312 kids under 20 killed themselves with guns in Colorado, about 31 children and teens each year, according to the Colorado Violent Death Reporting System. Nationally, reports show it’s more than 1,000 children each year.
A horrific Aurora case in 2015 resulted in no charges against a father who carelessly left his handgun in a coat pocket, which was discovered by his 12-year-old son. The boy knew where in the house the bullets were. While having friends over, with the parents not home, he got out the gun and ended up inadvertently shooting a 7-year-old friend in the head.
At the time, the prosecutor said state laws and evidence precluded charges being filed against the boy or his father. The boy’s father said he had no idea that his son even knew there was a gun in the house.
Experience and tragic history has made clear, kids know.
The father told police that he had “hidden” the gun inside the pocket of a jacket hanging inside a closet. He said he stored a clip and ammunition separately.
The Arapahoe County DA at the time said that was good enough to protect children from doing the unthinkable, such as finding the gun, the ammunition and playing with it while the parents are away and shooting someone.
The law and the prosecutor were wrong then, and now.
House Bill 1106 would require gun shops to provide gunlocks with every purchase, and require gun owners to use them.
About half of the more than 2 million homes with children and guns in the United States don’t have locked and unloaded weapons, according to a report by Everytown for Gun Safety.
The study revealed that “more than 70 percent of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns — even when they were hidden — and 36 percent of the children reported handling the weapons.”
Shockingly, the fines for leaving a running car unattended are more punitive than leaving a gun carelessly stashed under a bed.
While some research shows that as more Americans buy and harbor guns, the chances increase that a child will find and try to use it, clarity of how serious the problem is still evades the nation.
That’s because powerful gun lobbies prevent the federal government from accurately analyzing gun violence.
But we do know that about 1,300 kids a year are killed by guns, often by other kids with guns, sometimes even toddlers, and they shoot adults as well. Multiple studies claim gunfire is a leading cause of death of children under 18.
Opponents argue the gun-lock bill unconstitutionally limits gun rights. Similar bills in other states, upheld by courts, clearly proves that wrong. A Massachusetts law mandating safe gun storage and locks works for everyone.
Critics appeal to the fear that likely prompted gun purchases in the first place. They say safe gun storage would keep them from quickly reaching for a loaded weapon to protect themselves from home invaders and others.
Reality dismisses these claims, but the law, possibly unwisely, makes accommodations for people who feel the need to sleep next to their guns.
Some local gun enthusiasts and law enforcement officials said the state should instead focus on educating gun owners about safe gun storage, rather than creating penalties for those who didn’t know better.
“You don’t do it by creating laws that have penalties after an accident occurs. It’s completely ineffective, so focus on the education,” Erik Stone, a Teller County commissioner said at a bill committee hearing, according to an AP story.
Colorado should do both. Force gun sellers to instruct and quiz gun buyers about safe storage and this new law, and enforce the law when it’s violated.
What Colorado lawmakers can’t do is wait until the next child is maimed or killed because legislators were unsure of the problem or the solution.
The problem exists. The answer is House Bill 1106.