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Child’s shooting shows need for safe gun storage law

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Feb. 23, 2012 at 5:44 pm with 10 Comments »
February 23, 2012 5:40 pm

This editorial will appear in Friday’s print edition.

Authorities could end up charging the wrong person for the tragic shooting Wednesday of a third-grade girl at her Bremerton school. Blame it on this state’s lack of even a minimal gun-storage requirement.

The 9-year-old boy who brought a loaded handgun to school in his backpack does bear responsibility for the accidental shooting that critically injured Amina Bowman. But again, he’s 9 years old. Children that age often have little understanding of the consequences of their actions. Authorities would have to prove that the boy was aware that his actions were wrong in order to charge him with a crime.

Unfortunately, the person most responsible for this tragedy –  the adult who kept a loaded gun accessible to a youngster – likely won’t be held accountable.  Washington is not one of the 27 states that requires at least minimal safeguards to prevent children from getting access to firearms in the home. It has no criminal penalty for adults who fail to do so.

According to the boy’s teacher, he is a troubled child – all the more reason for his parent to have kept any firearms under lock and key in the home, if at all. The only way the parent might be held accountable is in civil court. Amina’s family could sue in hopes of recovering at least some of what is likely to be an astronomical bill for medical and rehabilitation expenses. But they’re not likely to collect much; Kitsap County officials say both of the boy’s parents have extensive criminal records.

In years past, lawmakers tried to enact sensible firearms storage legislation. The Whitney Graves bill, named for the 8-year-old Marysville girl accidentally shot by a playmate in 1996, would have made it a misdemeanor to leave a loaded gun easily accessible to a child.
Gun advocates, including the National Rifle Association, successfully blocked that legislation. If only the NRA had worked as hard to protect children as it is working to get its vanity license plate approved by the Legislature this session.

Lawmakers should not give up trying to bring Washington state into the national mainstream regarding safe firearm storage. Some adults would still ignore such a law, but the deterrent would save lives. And there would at least be a way to hold adults criminally liable for putting lethal force within reach of children.

Leave a comment Comments → 10
  1. A safe gun storage law is long overdue in this state. If the legislature generates such a bill, and the NRA and allied Gun advocates once again choose to be Irresponsible and attempt to block it, any legislator choosing to follow the same Irresponsible path should be held accountable at re-election time.

  2. You state the “need” for this law yet you fail to state just how this law will stop tragedies such as this.

    I agree the adults in the boys life are to blame. Most particularly the mother who had custody of the child and who moved him in with her boyfriend who was the owner of the gun. Do you really think this law would have caused either the mother or dirt bag boyfriend to behave responsibly?

    I’m against any and all laws that are enacted simply to make people like the editors feel good and enable them to say, “at least we’re doing something”.

  3. scott0962 says:

    Hold the legislature accountable if they don’t pass another gun control measure? We can’t even hold them accountable for passing a balanced budget.

  4. rivitman says:

    We already have a law to prevent this.

    “NO GUNS IN SCHOOLS”. It’s on the books. Haven’t you seen the signs?

    It’s the talisman, the magical spell, the pixie dust that shields kids from all harm. It works well doesn’t it?

    Just as well as the rest of the gun control laws in this country. This and the vague proposal for a “safe storage law”.

    The steps involved are simple:

    See tragedy.

    React to tragedy.

    Enact law.

    Law fails to accomplish goal.

    Repeat until there are thousand of useless laws on the books that accomplish nothing except to interfere with the rights and pastimes of others (the real goal).

  5. Every single gun today sold comes with a gun lock. You can go buy one if you lose yours for about $10 bucks. You don’t need a law requiring people to use them, as the clueless will disregard the law anyway. Criminals will continue to disregard laws, gun free zones, or any other attempts to legislate this issue away.

    While this event is a tragedy, you can’t legislate stupidity away.

  6. We already have gun laws & dont need anymore. You cant legislate lack of responsiblity. How about sum accountability!!!

  7. SO you pass another meaningless law, how you gonna verify everyone has their firearms secured in their private residence? I diots. Go to the gunshow in Puyallup this weekend and buy yourself a gun safe or a handful of trigger locks and mind your own business -

  8. frankiethomas says:

    The kid has been charged for violating the No Guns in Schools law, rivitman. This editorial is speaking to the need for a law that would address the parental responsibility in this.

  9. NWflyfisher says:

    How do you plan on enforcing your proposed law – mandatory random, unannounced home inspections by government agents?

    What about kitchen knives? Don’t we need a kitchen knife storage law requiring locked storage of kitchen knives in the home to keep them away from kids? We certainly don’t want any stabbings by children, do we? What about lighters and matches? Don’t we need a lighter & matches safe storage law to keep lighters and matches out of the hands of kids to prevent arson or accidental fires, do we? What about rope? We can prevent teenage suicidal hangings if we keep rope locked up and away from kids too, can’t we?

    Yeah, that’s what we need: another useless, “feel-good”, unenforceable law imposed on the public.

  10. Great. While those of us who are smart with our firearms try to protect our families, new laws will have us where we need to unlock our guns, take them out of the locked safe, etc., before having a chance to kill an intruder. For those of you who live in a lilly white world, here in Atlanta on a weekly basis there are home invasions with many gun toting criminals entering the homes of innocent people and killing/raping them. Crime has gone down considerably in areas around Atlanta that “require” handgun ownership. The liberals won’t be happy until all the criminals (most who are democrates)have the guns and the rest of us don’t. Flash mobs, wall streeters, etc., are becoming violent and we need the abiility to carry and shoot if necessary. These people attack police. What makes you think they won’t attack you or me????

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