What is Safe Storage?
Safe storage and access prevention laws require responsible gun owners to make a reasonable effort to keep guns out of the hands of children and other prohibited persons. That reasonable effort can take many forms, like gun safes, trigger locks, or storing ammunition separately from firearms. Twenty-seven states and Washington, DC have enacted these access prevention or storage laws to help keep children from accessing firearms.
Initiative 1639, which Washington voters approved in 2018, includes a dangerous access prevention provision, which incentivizes safe storage by creating criminal liability, depending on the severity of the incident, if a child or other prohibited person accesses an unsecurely stored firearm and uses it to hurt themselves or someone else. It also encourages gun owners to report the theft of their firearms within 5 days of knowing a gun was taken.Additionally, cities like Seattle and Edmonds have enacted their own safe storage laws.
In 2017, Carla Tolle’s 13-year-old grandson Edgar was shot and killed by a friend while they played at the friend’s grandfather’s house in Kelso, Washington. The friend was convicted of second-degree manslaughter and sentenced to five months in juvenile detention. The grandfather who owned the loaded, unsecured shotgun was not charged.
Read Carla’s story here.
These laws encourage gun owners to practice the kind of safe, secure, and responsible storage that everyone ought to support. In fact, a 2017 study found that 66 percent of gun owners believe that guns should be kept in a locked place when there are children living in the home. Keeping firearms away from children and out of the hands of people who want to cause harm just makes sense.
What kind of Tragedies Can Safe storage prevent?
Unintentional shootings: Eight children are unintentionally shot in the United States every day from improperly stored firearms. Here in Washington State, nearly half of gun owners do not lock up their guns.
Mass Shootings and Other Homicide: In school shootings over the last 20 years, where the source of the gun could be determined, more than 80 percent of shooters brought their firearms from their own homes or from the homes of friends or relatives. Every year in the US, approximately 380,000 firearms are stolen from gun owners. Data shows that Washington ranks among the top ten states with the highest number of stolen firearms.
Suicide: A 2014 study by King County found that adolescents with access to firearms are 2.6 times as likely to die by suicide as adolescents without access to firearms.