Safe Storage Gun Laws Prevent Crime, NRA Stickers Invite It

Hey there reader.  I hope you’re doing great.  I’m sure you know, there are many ways to protect your home. Some people might install surveillance cameras, motion detectors, flood lights, buy a big dog or firearms. And some people might place a sticker like the one seen above on a window thinking it will deter crime. This might seem reasonable, but think again.

Issue

Just because there is an NRA sticker on the outside of a home, it doesn’t mean there are guns inside: I bet some free-riding, non-gun owners feel safe by putting an NRA sticker in their home-windows, thinking the sticker alone will deter a thief from breaking and entering their home. But what good is a gun, or an NRA sticker in the window for that matter, if a thief still breaks in when the resident isn’t in the home? The thief could pilfer valuables like jewelry, cash or unsecured firearms.

My point is, there’s an added responsibility when someone buys a firearm; the need to secure it, it is a weapon after all and if in the wrong hands, it could yield unintended, unfortunate outcomes.  The Center for Disease Control recorded 505 unintentional firearms deaths in 2013. Of these, the National Safety Council found 400 unintentional shooting deaths occurred in homes. And a RAND Corporation study found an estimated 2.6 million children lived in a home where loaded firearms were stored without a trigger lock, cable lock nor in a gun locker.  Also consider 43 percent of firearm owners said they don’t secure their guns with trigger locks or in gun lockers.

Rule

Gun safes, gun lockers, trigger locks and cable locks are proven to prevent unintended gun deaths and gun thefts.  But States’ safe storage gun laws lack the consistency of federal laws, they vary from state to state;

There exists no federal firearm storage requirements, nor any law to establish consequences for gun owners who allow their unsecured weapons to fall into a child’s hands. However, the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act requires all importers, manufacturers, and federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs) provide a gun safety device (usually a trigger lock) with every gun sold or transferred. The legislation does not apply to private transactions.”

“Eleven states have their own laws mandating storage requirements for firearms, ranging from in-house storage rules to the regulation of approved locking devices. In states like Connecticut and California, gun locks must accompany private sales. Massachusetts currently has the strictest storage laws — gun owners there risk punishment of 18 months in prison and fines up $7,500 if they don’t store their guns with a lock or in a safe.”

Analysis

Americans support laws requiring the safe storage of firearms: a national survey conducted found 67 percent of respondents support laws requiring gun owners to secure their guns when not in use to prevent handling by children.  And 18 states have safe storage gun laws on the books.

And States with safe storage gun laws had a 25 percent decrease in unintentional gun deaths of children and teenagers between 1990 and 1994 and a had modest decrease in teenage gun suicides. Furthermore, States with safe storage handgun laws had 40 percent fewer suicides per capita and 68 percent fewer firearm suicides per capita than States without these laws.  In fact, States which have child access prevention (CAP) laws had 8.3 percent less child gun suicides per year than states which did not have CAP laws.

According to the DoJ, 232,000 guns are stolen each year.  And gun theft rates were dramatically lower in States with safe storage gun laws.

Finally reader, think about the 20 million guns obtained by criminals without a background check via straw purchase. My logic is, all guns start out as legally obtained from an FFL who completed the background check. I bet some of these 20 million guns were obtained via gun theft: it’s in the subsequent exchanges after the original background check in which firearms get into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them via straw purchases, gifts or thefts. For the criminal who would fail the background check, it would make sense to steal a firearm instead of purchasing one from a straw seller: a stolen firearm would yield the same results as one purchased from the straw seller but with zero financial cost. And once the firearm is stolen, the thief could sell it again, gift it, or to could be stolen without a background check.

The problem with a straw purchase is when police recover a firearm at a crime scene, they trace the serial number back to the last person who passed a background check. Gun owners must report stolen firearms to police and when a gun owner has a pattern of their guns being stolen and not immediately reporting them, the police alert the ATF. My point is, once a gun is obtained without a background check, via theft, gift or straw purchase, it becomes a lemon which nobody wants: the current carrier is in possession of a firearm which might have been used in a crime.  Best practice is for all gun sellers to run background checks on all buyers and all gun owners to secure their firearms in condition 4 to prevent gun thefts and gun accidents.

Conclusion And Policy Solution

With all of these factors considered reader, it is clear safe storage gun laws prevent gun thefts and unintentional gun deaths.  And putting an NRA sticker on the outside of a home is a foolish attempt to deter crime: the sticker might actually invite criminals to break and enter the home given the preponderance of unsecured and stolen firearms in the US each year.

What’s missing at the national level is consistent safe storage gun policy and enforcement, a penalty for leaving firearms unsecured. More states should implement safe storage gun laws, and once a majority of states have similar, effective laws on the books, a national safe storage gun law could be passed with popular support. The best part is, no one loses their gun rights; storing firearms safely isn’t a violation of the second amendment, it’s an affordable, popular and simple public health policy to solve America’s problems of gun theft and unintended gun deaths.

A national safe storage gun policy could be the owner of a firearm which is lost, misplaced or stolen and later found will be fined $5,000 and must complete 200 community service hours in a year. Maybe then, gun owners will begin to secure their firearms.

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kristianberhost@gmail.com

I want to write about new experiences, the people I meet and the things I learn. I moved from Tempe, AZ to Arlington, VA with my dog 3 years ago. We love it here.

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