Unsafe Storage

They’re back. Colorado’s Democrats held off for as long as they could, but, as predicted, their animosity toward peaceable gun owners is rising to the surface. (There are some exceptions among Colorado’s Democrats.)

Mike Saccone reported the story for the February 5 Daily Sentinel, which assigned the biased headline, “Bill would crack down on careless gun storage.” The bill would do no such thing. It would instead intimidate gun owners who store their guns safely, giving criminals the upper hand. A more accurate headline would have stated, “Bill would coddle criminals, punish responsible gun owners.” (Of course, the Sentinel could also consider hiring headline writers capable of distinguishing between neutral and slanted language. “Bill would create new gun storage rules” would have been fine.)

Saccone writes, “Senate Bill 49 would make it a misdemeanor offense for an adult to fail to safely and securely store a firearm, which a 16-year-old or 17-year-old child could then use to harm someone or take the gun to school.”

But, as I wrote back in 2001, existing laws already cover cases of putting children in mortal danger, without discriminating against one class of citizens (i.e., gun owners). The Democrats, though, wish to punish gun owners in particular and criminalize them for responsible storage of a gun, which in many contexts means storing the gun such that it is available for potential defensive use.

Of course, many of those who support the “storage” bill generally oppose defensive gun ownership, and their strategy is to incrementally outlaw it.

The bills are available at the Colorado legislature’s web page.

The new twist for Senate Bill 08-049 is that it emphasizes “teenage suicide.” This is a clever political move, because, obviously, nobody likes teenage suicide. But why is that suddenly the issue? The bill states, “A recent and comprehensive study of the effectiveness of laws to prevent minors’ access to firearms shows a significant decrease in firearm suicides by minors in states that have adopted these laws…” I have not read the unspecified “recent and comprehensive study.” But the uncritical reader might miss the significance of the phrase “firearm suicides.” The anti-gun lobby apparently doesn’t care whether the total suicide rate stays the same, so long as “firearm suicides” go down. If people switch methods of suicide, that’s totally irrelevant, so far as the anti-gun lobby is concerned. Obviously, the proper goal is to responsibly reduce total teenage suicides, which are fundamentally unrelated to gun laws.

Nor does the anti-gun lobby care whether more people are victimized by criminals who have less to fear when they break into somebody’s home.

Another problem with the bill is its invocation of the “reasonable person” standard. Unfortunately, prosecutors are not always reasonable; sometimes they prosecute cases to inflate their statistics so that they can run for higher office. Yet the bill requires the posting of notices that demand that “you store[] the firearm in a manner that a reasonable person would believe is inaccessible to a minor.” Gee, nothing ambiguous about that!

For once, the Republicans have discovered their back bones:


Controversial curb on gun owners passes committee on party-line vote

Tuesday, 05 February 2008

Republicans sided with a host of witnesses in a Senate committee hearing Monday challenging a Democrat measure placing new conditions on guns stored at home. The State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee’s GOP members said Senate Bill 49 would make it much harder for homeowners to protect themselves and their families against home intrusions and burglaries.

SB 49, sponsored in the Senate by Arvada Democrat Sue Windels, holds homeowners criminally liable–subject to a misdemeanor charge–if minors obtain their firearms and commit suicide or a crime against another. Windels says the measure is meant to cut crime and teen suicides, but Republicans on the committee said the bill would backfire.

“Current law already addresses this issue,” Sen. Bill Cadman, a Colorado Springs Republican on the committee, said after the hearing.

“We have a good balance right now between the need to keep kids from misusing guns and the right of homeowners to be able to defend their families,” Cadman said. “This bill would upset that balance by giving home intruders the upper hand and tying the hands of homeowners.”

Current law already bars people from knowingly or recklessly allowing firearms to fall into the hands of any person under the age of 18.

Cadman said the bill as drafted imposes a one-size-fits-all restriction on homeowners by coercing them into keeping their guns inaccessible. As a result, he said, guns not only would be difficult to use in those circumstances where a homeowner needs quick access for home defense but also could wind up discouraging more citizens from trying to defend themselves at all.

“This bill likely would have a chilling effect on gun ownership,” Cadman said.

Cadman added that statistics show that a decline in the ability of homeowners to defend themselves leads to an increase in crimes against those homeowners.

Cadman and fellow Colorado Springs Republican Sen. Dave Schultheis voted against the proposal. It passed 3-2 on a party line vote.

Defenders of the right to self-defense contend SB 49 represents the latest in a series of swipes at gun ownership by law-abiding citizens since ruling Democrats took power in the General Assembly. Last year, Democrat Gov. Bill Ritter signed two bills into law that placed additional restrictions on the right of Coloradans to carry concealed weapon.

SB 49 is now en route to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.