You know you’ve missed the mark as a Democratic lawmaker when even gun control supporters aren’t lining up to back your new pet piece of legislation. Pennsylvania state Rep. Darisha Parker, a Democrat from Philadelphia, may have thought she struck gun control gold with her idea to mandate gun locks be sold with every long gun in the state, but instead it looks more like she’s striking out with both Second Amendment supporters and anti-gun activists.
“It adds a cost and expense to the firearm,” said Val Finnell, the Pennsylvania director of Gun Owners of America. “There’s absolutely no way to enforce it. It’s unenforceable. The only way it could ever possibly be enforced is after the fact … trigger locks and all these things are symbolism over substance.”
Finnell also noted that selling a trigger lock does not mean the lock will be used. Some gun owners prefer to safely store firearms in other ways, such as in a locked gun safe.
Advocates of gun restriction have also questioned gun locks.
“If we think of gun safety measures like anti-theft devices, a trigger lock is sort of like a sign reading ‘Please Do Not Steal From This Store’ – a well-meaning idea but mostly ineffectual,” the journalist Justin Peters wrote.
To be fair, Peters wasn’t specifically referencing Parker’s bill when he wrote about the “dubiously effective safety measure that gun control activists love.” In fact, Peters wrote his column all the way back in 2013. Still, it’s hard to envision Moms Demand Action or Giffords going gaga over Peters’ bill, even if they don’t take steps to actively oppose it.
As for Peters herself, the Democrat swears she isn’t trying to curb anyone’s Second Amendment rights. Instead, the lawmaker claims she’s just trying to make the state a safer place.
“It is vital that we protect the people of Pennsylvania by implementing better safe storage requirements. Safe firearm storage will reduce the prevalence of gun violence, as well as decrease theft and the trafficking of legally purchased firearms,” Parker said in a legislative memo.
“What I am proposing is to bring back some law and order,” Parker said.
She said she represents a part of Philadelphia “that has gotten extremely dangerous and it’s gotten out of control,” and explained the bill as an effort to improve public safety.
“My argument is not with legal gun owners. It’s to make sure that the legal gun owners set the standard and the bar for showing what safety should be,” Parker said. “Does that mean it’s going to stop and reduce the gun violence? I’m not sure, but we have to start somewhere.”
“If individuals and other groups would join forces with me, then I think we could work together to solve what’s happening with this illegal gun industry,” Parker said.
I don’t know how much Parker knows about this issue, but a trigger lock isn’t going to prevent a gun from being stolen or trafficked. As Slate’s Justin Peters wrote almost a decade ago, the primary beneficiaries of requiring trigger locks to be sold with guns are politicians, not the general public.
Why, then, are trigger locks such a popular idea? In part, because they’re a low-impact solution. You can imagine them being adopted without undue hassle. They don’t require gun owners to retrofit their weapons with some complicated new technology; they don’t count on legislators passing laws that would never actually go anywhere in real life. You just buy it and slip it on your gun. Easy.
But that doesn’t mean they work well. If we think of gun safety measures like anti-theft devices, a trigger lock is sort of like a sign reading “Please Do Not Steal From This Store”—a well-meaning idea but mostly ineffectual. When it comes to the question of how to most effectively prevent accidental child shooting deaths, trigger locks are definitely not the best answer.
It’s most certainly not the best answer when it comes to the question of how to reduce violent crime, which is supposedly Parker’s goal. If that is, in fact, her primary motivation, she’d be better off scuttling her new bill and replacing it with one that targets juvenile offenders and promises to impose real consequences for their crimes. Of course, if she did that she’d also have to take on the Democratic establishment instead of law-abiding gun owners, and I doubt Parker has the courage (or at least the willingness) to do so.