Opinion: Safe Storage Of Guns Can Prevent Future Tragedies

Erin Stilp, an organizer with Common Ground, shows how an Identilock gun lock works. The lock, which requires a fingerprint to unlock it, is designed to prevent a child or thief from accessing the gun. (Photo: Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Last year, more than 40,000 Americans lost their lives to gun violence. That’s 40,000 people in one year alone.

With yet another school shooting last week, we need more than thoughts and prayers. This crisis demands action.

As the mother of three young girls; as a former school board president who constantly kept the district’s students at the forefront of her thoughts; and as a member of the Ohio House of Representatives with a constituent whose niece was murdered in Parkland, Florida – the reasons for introducing a bill to help stem the tide of gun violence are numerous.

That’s why state Representative Brigid Kelly and I have introduced a bill to take a serious step toward reform. The Child Access Prevention law would make it illegal for a gun owner to keep their firearm in a location to be easily and unlawfully accessed by a minor.

According to the Giffords Law Center, a 2018 study found that 4.6 million American minors live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm. In a separate study of school shootings, in 65% of cases, the attacker used a firearm from either his or her own home or that of a relative.

Under the proposed law, gun owners with a minor in their household are required to keep their firearms in safe storage, equipped with a tamper-resistant lock or other safety devices. Essentially, the storage needs to render the weapon inaccessible or inoperable by a minor.

As a conceal to carry permit holder myself, we are not taking anyone’s guns away. We are taking action to prevent more massacres like Parkland and to prevent the type of school shootings that have become far too familiar in our country.

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A police officer demonstrates a gun lock Tuesday, June 2, 2015 at the Oakland County Board of Commissioners auditorium in Pontiac, where dozens of officers picked up thousands of the locks. Starting Friday, which is Gun Safety Awareness Day, police departments nationwide including dozens in Oakland County will give the locks away, "no questions asked," said County Commissioner and former police chief Bill Dwyer of Farmington Hills. "Trigger locks and gun safes save lives" by keeping loaded guns out of the hands of children as well as making it harder for thieves to steal them, said Dwyer, chairperson of the county's Study Group on Curbing Gun Violence. Bill Laitner/Detroit Free Press (Photo: Bill Laitner/Detroit Free Press)

Yes, we are providing exceptions for cases of unlawful break-ins. Yes, a gun owner can keep their firearm on their person in their own household. Yes, a gun owner can still provide their firearm to another person who is also lawfully authorized to use that firearm.

A gun owner cannot, however, make it easy for a minor to illegally access their firearm.

If a gun owner were to be found in violation of this law, they would be charged with a misdemeanor of the third degree.

Additionally, if a gun owner were to be found in violation of this law, and the minor uses the firearm to cause personal injury or death – other than in self-defense – the gun owner would be charged with a felony of the first degree.

The constituent I referenced is Abbie Youkilis. Her niece was Jamie Guttenberg.

It is too late for Jamie and the other 40,000-plus Americans who have lost their lives to gun violence last year. But it is not too late to try and prevent future tragedies.

Please, encourage your elected officials to support Rep. Kelly and my bill. We can, and we must, do better for our children.

Jessica E. Miranda is a small business owner and state representative from Ohio’s 28th District.

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Jessica Miranda (Photo: Provided)

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