Yolo County to extend mandatory storage law to cars

Yolo County to extend mandatory storage law to cars
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Mandatory storage laws, known by some as “safe storage,” are one of those things that are popular with the anti-gun sect and often sounds like something that makes sense to those who tend to accept some gun regulations, but aren’t interested in some of the harsher anti-gun proposals.

The idea is that people should have to lock their firearms up when not in use.

In and of itself, that’s an uncontroversial statement. The problems arise when you start trying to mandate it. Then, the problem becomes the state deciding what “not in use” actually means and people getting in trouble for having a different definition.

In one California county, though, they intend to extend their mandatory storage law’s reach.

Yolo County supervisors voiced support Tuesday for an amendment to the county’s recently enacted safe gun storage ordinance.

Back in September, the Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance requiring safe storage of firearms in homes and asked staff to return with language related to guns stored in vehicles.

On Tuesday, supervisors voted unanimously in favor of staff’s recommended amendment, which requires that guns stored in unattended vehicles be in a locked container or tethered to the vehicle and prohibiting the storage of firearms in unattended vehicles overnight.

The amendment was drafted following discussions with the Yolo County Sheriff’s Department as well as the Yolo County Farm Bureau and accommodated their concerns.

“To add a little flexibility for farmers and rural residents, we defined an unattended vehicle as one in which the gun owner is neither in nor within sight of,” said John Rowe, a management analyst for the county. “This means if a farmer needs to step away 20 feet to attend to a fence or something on the property, they don’t have to be burdened with storing the firearm they might need to access quickly if they, say, see a coyote.”

Now, I get the idea here. People leaving guns in cars overnight, with nothing but hopes and windows protecting them from theft just make it easier for people to steal them. An alarming number of these vehicles aren’t even locked, for crying out loud.

Yet is this the best potential solution? I don’t think so.

The idea of punishing the victims of theft will never sit well with me. Laws like this, though, create a perverse incentive to not report gun thefts.

“Nope, not reporting that one.”

And, with it being a vehicle, they can get away with it. If the gun turns up at a crime scene, they can either say it was stolen before the storage law was in effect or it was stolen in another county. Either way, it’s virtually impossible to enforce such a law.

But it does mean that if a gun’s serial number is run by law enforcement, the weapon won’t come back stolen. As a result, unless some other crime has been committed, the gun may remain in circulation with the criminal underclass, all because someone forgot a gun in their truck and it got stolen.

Mandatory storage laws are bad ideas, but extending them to vehicles isn’t just dumb, it’s unworkable.