Bill introduced mandating gun storage requirements

Photo Courtesy of the National Shooting Sports Foundation

All too often the talking heads of the anti-freedom caucus spew out their buzzword-laden points expecting them to be slurped up as gospel. One of the phrases gun owners need to pay heed to, and this is something I’ve heard some industry members start to combat, is the term “safe storage”. When it comes to firearm storage, the term “safe storage” has wedged itself into press releases and bill texts in the context of dictating how a person shall store their firearm. We need to gain control of the conversation and talk about “responsible storage”. Safe storage almost always insinuates that the firearm must be locked up. Responsible storage, that gives a little more latitude in methodologies, in my opinion, and is a mentality versus a dictate. On January 10th H.R.6370 – Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act was introduced by Representative Elissa Slotkin [D-MI-8].

Turning to Slotkin’s webpage, we can find a press release from December 15, 2021 that “unveiled” the introduction of the bill.

U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) today announced that she will introduce the Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act, a bill to require safe and proper storage of firearms in households to prevent children and others from illegally accessing the weapon. Slotkin will introduce the bill in the wake of the shooting at Oxford High School on November 30, which left 4 teenage students dead.

 

“I’m introducing this bill because of the destructive role the parents of the killer had on the lives of four teenagers at Oxford High School, and thousands more in the community,” said Slotkin. “At church services, vigils and funerals, and visits with parents, teachers, and law enforcement, everyone’s priority is to keep our kids safe – and it’s clear there’s a gap in law that makes it hard to hold parents accountable for aiding their child in committing a crime with a gun.”  

“I come from a gun-owning family, and I carried two firearms on my three tours in Iraq with the CIA. There are millions of responsible gun owners in Michigan, including my own dad. This bill will require gun owners to store or lock their firearms when children are present, and will hold them accountable when they fail to do so. This legislation is a serious, common-sense effort to address a safety issue that is taking American lives all around the country. Ensuring that firearms are properly stored, and not left to fall into the hands of those who could use them for violence, is essential. The goal is to prevent another American town from experiencing the devastation we’ve felt in Oxford over the last two weeks.” 

H.R. 6370 is another feel good measure that’ll do nothing to stop tragic events from occurring. On the contrary, having the government dictate how one must store their firearm could result in an adverse outcome for those that are looking to store their firearm for the use of self-defense. People will either follow the law or they will not. Further, the people more likely to follow the law are ones that are already responsibly storing their firearms, the way they see fit.

The bill does have some “latitude” in it on storage methods, but not enough for my comfort. Let’s turn to the bill text in full and take a look:

To amend chapter 44 of title 18, United States Code, to require the safe storage of firearms, and for other purposes.

[…]

‘‘(4) SECURE GUN STORAGE BY OWNERS.—
‘‘(A) OFFENSE.—
‘‘(i) IN GENERAL.—Except as pro2 vided in clause (ii), it shall be unlawful for a person to knowingly store or keep any firearm that has moved in, or that has otherwise affected, interstate or foreign commerce on the premises of a residence under the control of the person if—
‘‘(I) the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor; and
‘‘(II) a minor obtains the firearm and uses the firearm in the commission of a crime or causes injury or death to such minor, or any other individual.
‘‘(ii) EXCEPTION.—Clause (i) shall not apply to a person if the person—
‘‘(I) keeps the firearm—
‘‘(aa) secure using a secure gun storage or safety device; or
‘‘(bb) in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure; or
‘‘(II) carries the firearm on his or her person or within such close proximity thereto that the person can readily retrieve and use the firearm as if the person carried the firearm on his or her person.
‘‘(B) PENALTY.—Whoever violates sub8 paragraph (A) shall be fined under this title, imprisoned for not more than 5 years, or both.
‘‘(C) MINOR DEFINED.—In this paragraph, the term ‘minor’ means an individual who is less than 18 years of age.’’.

Basically the law would require that firearms be “secure using a secure gun storage or safety device” or stored in “a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure”, if the firearm is not on the owner’s person or close proximity. What’s a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure? That’s a great question. Alright, the law would not require the guns to be locked up, but if they’re not they have to be “reasonably secured”.

Laws like this are punitive in nature. All they do is tack on charges when a crime or negligent event occurs. That’s all. The law is saying “thou shall store your firearm in this manner” and by not complying, there are zero repercussions unless something happens. Essentially the government is saying “don’t do this” and only the law abiding are going to follow.

Here’s my proposal, which maybe should be written into the bill. To fit the requirement of “in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure” a nightstand should suffice as long as the parent or adult in the dwelling tells any minors “you’re not allowed to go in the nightstand drawer”. This is the exact same logic that’s being used in this bill, is it not? Because you’re either going to have a child that follows the rules or you’re not. Just like you’re going to have an adult that follows the law or not.

The matter of firearms storage is a personal one. The acts of negligent parents should not end up dictating how the rest of the country shall store their guns. An adolescent or minor child that’s looking to create mayhem and commit egregious acts may or may not find a way into say a gun safe. Or they may or may not be able to cut off a cable lock off a “secured” firearm. Ask me how easy it’s to cut off those cable locks that come with handguns in the event of say a key getting lost. Pretty easy. Do an internet search and you’ll find a multitude of ways to gain access to firearms that are stored in a so-called “safe” manner. The biggest baddest safes on the market, if knocked over can be cut open over the course of a few minutes or hours, depending on the grade of steel, with simple to purchase tools and materials at the hardware store.

That’s not to say I’m not a fan of safes, because I am. But I’m also a fan of the adult population being able to decide what works best for them. For some that could be a safe, others trigger locks. While in some homes it’s responsible to store firearms in nightstand drawers. It’s not for the government to decide.

A more salient approach might be to create an educational campaign about what responsible storage of firearms is and what that means to each person as an individual. There’s no one size fits all solution to how one may elect to store their firearm, and the legislators would be better off admitting that. It’s about time our so-called representatives aim to work with people rather than against them. Set up the condition so that people would want to be responsible rather than cram it down their throats.