J.B. Forbes/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP
After trying and failing in 2018, an Oregon gun control group is hoping to put a so-called “safe storage law” to a vote of the people next year, and they’ve started collecting signatures in order to get on the ballot. State of Safety Action wants every gun owner in the state to keep their firearms locked up when not “in use,” and claim a majority of Oregon residents support the idea.
State of Safety Action president Henry Wessinger said the group conducted a statewide poll and found that 65% of registered voters support a safe storage law.
“I just completed an online NRA hunting course and it’s exactly the same type of information that they recommend,” Wessinger said.
I can think of lots of things that are great recommendations, and yet would be terrible laws. It’s a good idea to eat at least five servings of vegetables a day. It’s a bad idea to charge someone with a crime if they pass on the broccoli and carrots. It’s a good idea to get half an hour of exercise every day. It’s a bad idea to send them to prison if they decide to sit on the couch instead.
Besides, this really isn’t about “safe storage” at all. If that’s what this was really about, Henry Wessinger and his pals would be spending their time and money on educational campaigns, not collecting signatures for a new law. This is about making it as hard as possible to defend yourself in your own home with a firearm.
Back in 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court in the Heller case struck down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns, but it also ruled that the city’s gun storage law was unconstitutional. D.C. required that all firearms be kept locked up, ammunition stored separately, at all times. That made it unlikely, if not impossible, that any D.C. resident who followed the law would be able to use their gun for self-defense in their own home.
Defeated by the courts, anti-gun activists went back to the drawing board and came up with a slightly less stringent storage requirement. Firearms would still have to be locked up at all times, unless the gun was “on your person or under your control.” Legally speaking, “on your person” is pretty easy to define, but what about “under your control?” Is a firearm under your control if it’s on a bathroom counter while you’re in the shower? Is a gun “under your control” if it’s in your bedside table while you’re sleeping?
You don’t get to define “under your control.” Police and prosecutors do, and that’s just the way the gun-ban crowd wants it. Make the law as vague and ill-defined as possible, and you can ensnare more legal gun owners. It’s pretty simple, but I’m not convinced it makes anybody safer. It’s also a one-size-fits-all policy that doesn’t recognize the individual circumstances and needs of gun owners. How I safely store my firearms with three children in my home may very well be different than how my single, childless neighbor safely stores hers. Under this proposed law in Oregon, however, both of us would have to store our firearms exactly the same, or else risk criminal prosecution. Education, not incarceration, is a much better way to address the issue.