Easy access to firearms is one of the leading contributing factors to deadly incidents of gun violence involving children.
Here in Washington, guns taken from the home have been at the heart of some of the most tragic gun violence incidents in our state, including the 2015 shooting of a young boy in Lake Stevens and the 2012 shooting of Amina Bowman, among many others. Today, Washington State has no law relating to child access prevention, even though the evidence is clear that these laws have a real effect in reducing accidental deaths and suicides.
One of Washington State’s most terrible gun tragedies, the 2014 mass shooting at Marysville-Pilchuck High School, was a child access incident. A young man used his father’s unstored firearm to act on his rage against his fellow students.
Cindy Gazecki, the cousin of victim Gia Soriano, gave an impassioned plea for child access laws:
What constitutes an effective Child Access Prevention law?
Effective child access legislation holds adults responsible for keeping guns out of the hands of children, and creates criminal liability when a negligently stored firearm is used by a child to harm themselves or others. The level of liability will depend on the severity of the harm caused by a child who has obtained the adult’s gun. The most effective child access laws are those that attach felony criminal liability when a firearm that is left readily available is used by a child in a crime.
What would the impact be if Washington State added a Child Access Prevention law?
Here in Washington, guns taken from the home have been at the heart of some of the most tragic gun violence incidents in our state, including the recent shooting of a young boy in Lake Stevens, the Marysville-Pilchuck High School shooting and the 2012 shooting of Amina Bowman, among many others.
The absence of a Child Access Prevention law places harsh limitations on Washington State prosecutors when they attempt to hold adults accountable under current law. As former Kitsap County Prosecuting Attorney Russ Hauge testified, current law allows adults to escape criminal liability:
“The net result was that the 9-year-old boy” who took his guardian’s firearm “incurred more criminal culpability than the adult who left all these loaded, cocked firearms around his house.” – former Kitsap County Prosecutor Russ Hauge
- States with CAP laws in place for at least one year saw a 23% drop in unintentional firearm deaths among children younger than 15.
- Over a 25-year period, over 65% of school shooters obtained the firearm used in the crime at their home or that of a relative.
- One study found that more than 75% of the guns used in youth suicide attempts and unintentional injuries were stored in the residence of the victim, a relative, or a friend.
Are Child Access Prevention laws in place in other states?
Twenty-eight states – more than half of the country – have child access prevention laws on the books. Yet Washington State currently has no law relating to child access prevention.
Would a Child Access Prevention law mean that I have to buy a gun safe or a trigger lock?
No. The proposed Child Access Prevention law does not require a gun owner to purchase any particular product to safely store their firearm.