My heart goes out to the grieving families in the Connecticut school shooting. I look at the innocence of those children and wonder how anyone could be so cold-blooded. This tragedy is unfathomable. I hugged my children more than ever this weekend.
The nation has thought long and hard about what policy changes are needed to avert the likelihood of these horrific shootings. Suggestions have ranged from focusing on mental health care, more restrictive gun laws, more lax gun laws, enforcing existing gun laws, banning high capacity magazine rifles, better parenting, educational initiatives to combat the U.S. culture of violence, and beefed up security at schools.
Perhaps there is truth to all of these perspective, but gun owner accountability is rarely talked about. Out of the dozens of perspectives and stories I read not a single one mentioned the need to hold gun owners accountable when their guns negligently end up in the hands of lunatics, criminals and children.
The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens but do they store their guns responsibly? How accessible are their guns to children and others? Gun owners need to know that if their guns end up in the wrong hands, there will be consequences. We need laws to deter gun owners from negligently storing firearms. When was the last time you read a story of a gun owner facing criminal or civil liability because their gun ended up in the wrong hands?
Various states have child access prevention (CAP) laws but no such policies exist on the federal level and these laws are rarely enforced despite:
A 2000 study of firearm storage patterns in U.S. homes found that "[o]f the homes with children and firearms, 55 percent were reported to have one or more firearms in an unlocked place," and 43 percent reported keeping guns without a trigger lock in an unlocked place. A 2005 study on adult firearm storage practices in U.S. homes found that over 1.69 million children and youth under age 18 are living in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms.
In most states, CAP law violations are considered misdemeanors so the impact of these laws are minimal but studies have shown a considerable impact in reduction of accidents when violations are a felony.
We need gun owner accountability above all else. If someone owns a gun and through their negligence the gun gets into the wrong hands, the gun owner needs to be held criminally accountable. Period. With an estimated 300 million guns in circulation in the U.S. people need to be responsible to keep their guns secure from lunatics, criminals and curious children.
In many mass shootings the gunmen themselves never purchased the guns but obtained them from a readily accessible source that did legally purchase them. In the latest Newtown, CT, shooting, the gunmen obtained his guns from his mother who legally owned them. Although it is still to early to tell exactly how that happened and whether the mothers guns were locked up. She herself was a victim so I'm not here to pass judgment but the reality is that the shooter got his guns from her home.
Various reports indicate that the shooter tried to purchase a gun several days before the shooting but was denied. The state of Connecticut has very restrictive gun laws. The gun laws didn't stop the shooter from obtaining the guns from a source, namely his mother, that was able to lawfully acquire them. Law abiding citizens follow laws, not criminals, so lets create laws that ensure law abiding gun owners secure their guns
Perhaps in this situation there was nothing the mother could have done since she herself was shot in cold-blood before her guns were taken but what about the next shooting? What about previous shootings where the killers easily accessed guns from family or friends that were negligently storing those guns?
Gun owners should know that if their guns end up in the wrong hands they will be held accountable. This will help ensure that the estimated 300 million guns in circulation don't end up in the wrong hands.