Baby, get your gun
March 6, 2019
"If you're a parent and you own guns, lock your guns safely away, so your children should not be able, or anyone else, to get your legally owned guns." Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, R-Texas, May 20, 2018
Two news stories recently caught my attention. On Jan. 23, in Norwalk, Calif., a preschool age child was in the backseat of a car; his mother was in the driver's seat. The child found a loaded shotgun which had been left in the car, so he, unsurprisingly, began playing with the shotgun. He ended up shooting his mother in the back. Fortunately, she survived. (Patch, Jan. 24, 2019)
In the other story, a mom, dad, and 4-year-old boy in Seattle were watching TV in the parents' bedroom on Feb. 2. The little boy found a loaded handgun between the mattress and box spring. Again, the child started playing and shot his 8-months-pregnant mother in the face. Thankfully, both the mother and unborn baby survived. (ABC News, Feb. 5, 2019)
While double-checking my facts (which I always do), it was horrifying to learn how many times children shoot their parents, siblings, or themselves with loaded guns left lying around. I told a conservative friend about this, and her response was, "We have enough gun laws, and you can't fix stupid."
I checked and found there is no federal law requiring safe storage of guns when children are in the home. Only 14 states and the District of Columbia have laws that make negligent storage a crime, which mean 36 states, including Nevada, have no such law. No, you can't fix stupid, but you can reduce bloodshed with some clear laws about safe gun storage. This seems like a no-brainer.
Another common-sense action is background checks on all gun sales, which is supported by 90 percent of Americans. On Jan. 8, members of Congress introduced H.R. 8, the "Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019." This law would require background checks on all gun sales and transfers. Despite what some have claimed, there are several exceptions granted for family members, shooting ranges, hunting and so forth. (The Hill, Feb. 20, 2018)
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Nevada has been trying to implement its own background check law ever since voters approved Question 1 in 2016. This law required that "private party gun transfers – with a few exceptions – be subject to a federal background check through the National Instant Criminal Background Check System administered by the FBI." (Reno Gazette-Journal, Dec. 28, 2016)
The FBI said it couldn't do these background checks because the checks would require additional resources the FBI didn't have. Those opposed to the measure, such as Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, were delighted at that.
In response, former Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley, who supported the measure, said, "The attorney general (Adam Paul Laxalt) has voiced his dislike for this initiative and I believe he will not try to find any resolution to what the FBI has said because he's adverse to the initiative's language anyway." (Reno Gazette-Journal, Dec. 28, 2016)
After the 2018 election, new efforts were made to implement what voters clearly wanted. On Feb. 15, Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Senate Bill 143, which extends gun background checks and helps close the "gun show" loophole. The bill modifies a few requirements, but keeps the background check intact. The law takes effect on Jan. 2, 2020.
Opponents say these laws don't work, but since Feb. 28, 1994, when the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act became law, over 2 million illegal firearms sales were prevented, including 1 million attempts by convicted felons. (Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2014) Does anyone really believe that if those illegal sales had gone through, no one would have been killed as a result? Background checks save lives. Period.
The "gun in every hand" folks scream "gun grab" every time anyone suggests a reasonable, common-sense gun law such as universal background checks. I suggest they carefully read the first four words of the Second Amendment and then explain why they believe that anyone, anywhere, should be able to get any gun they want.
If they don't believe that, then what are their plans for keeping guns out of the hands of the violent and incompetent? I've never heard any proposals from them. All of you "law-abiding" citizens, what are your ideas?
Proponents of a border wall say it's worth it if it saves even one life. Proponents of safe storage laws and background checks believe the same thing, but these policies will be easier and far less expensive to implement. And they really will save lives.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at email@example.com.