So-called “safe storage bills” are really nothing of the kind. I’ve argued that they actually reduce safety because they require people to lock up the weapons they need to defend their homes. They make people less safe because if they need a gun in an instant, it’s not instantly available. This is a bad scenario, but not an unlikely one.
However, those measures may not have the impact many think they will.
A 2000 paper in Yale University’s Journal of Law and Economics by John Lott, Jr. and John Whitley examined the effects of safe storage laws on accidental deaths and injuries and on crime rates. Analysis of available data led Lott and Whitley to the conclusion there is “little systematic impact of safe-storage laws on accidental deaths.”
“While there is some weak evidence that safe-storage laws reduce juvenile gun suicides, those intent on committing suicide appear to easily substitute into other methods, as the total number of juvenile suicides actually rises (if insignificantly) after passage of safe-storage laws,” says the paper.
Lott and Whitley also concluded that safe-storage laws can actually increase crime in the community.
“The only consistent impact of safe-storage laws is to raise rape, robbery, and burglary rates, and the effects are very large. Our most conservative estimates show that safe-storage laws resulted in 3,738 more rapes, 21,000 more robberies, and 49,733 more burglaries annually in just the 15 states with these laws. More realistic estimates indicate across-the-board increases in violent and property crimes,” the paper says.
Accidental gun deaths are rare.
Data from the Center for Disease Control’s National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) for 2017, the latest figures published, list a total of 486 deaths from accidental discharge of firearms nationwide. Of those only 62 such deaths were reported for children under age 15 and 117 for ages 15 to 24. The tables do not explore the circumstances of these deaths.
For 2017 suicides by firearms, 186 children under 15 died, while 2,959 persons between 15 and 24 died out of a total of 6,252 suicides in that age range.
In other words, these laws aren’t as needed as many like to claim.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Those children’s deaths are a tragedy. The loss of even one child is awful, especially if it’s your own, but let’s also acknowledge that many of those were plundering where they didn’t belong when they found those guns in the first place. Those deaths are at least as much of a parenting failure as a failure to secure a firearm.
Regardless, though, in a nation of over 300 million people, that’s little more than statistical noise.
Meanwhile, states like Colorado are considering imposing those rules on their residents, regardless of what the data actually tells them. That’s because it’s not really about saving lives but about looking like that’s what they want to do. They seek to create new rules and new punishments for law-abiding citizens to potentially run afoul of, all so they can tell people that they’re addressing a non-existent problem.
It’s only too bad that there seems to be a corresponding increase in crime to go along with it. You’d think that would be enough to make some take a step back and rethinking what they’re doing, but with anti-gunners, that never seems to matter.