Bill incentivizing gun owners to secure firearms addresses public health concern
Journal Gazette (Fort Wayne, IN)
The video of a 4-year-old Beech Grove child in diapers and waving a handgun around inside an apartment complex was a startling realization about the dangers of keeping a gun unsecured.
The boy's father, Shane Osborne, has been charged with dangerous control of a firearm and neglect of a dependent after the video was broadcast on the syndicated reality show "On Patrol: Live." Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears said, "Too many children in our community are placed at risk as a result of irresponsible gun ownership."
We couldn't agree more, which is why we are intrigued by House Bill 1347, authored by state Rep. Jim Lucas, R-Seymour. The bill would provide state income tax credits for gun owners who receive qualified firearms instruction or purchase a qualified firearms storage device. While we would rather the state demand a new gun owner purchase a lock, this is a good beginning to address a public health problem.
It's troubling that access to firearms is so easy for children in the U.S., where 32% of Americans say they own a gun, according to the 2021 National Firearms Survey. Nearly 8,000 children and teens were shot and more than 1,600 have died each year between 2015 and 2019, the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence says.
Of those who died, 52% were murdered, 40% died from suicide by gun and 5% were killed unintentionally.
Research funded by the National Institute of Justice and published in 2021 examined mass shootings that took place from 1966 to 2019. The analysis found more than 80% of mass shooters at K-12 schools took guns from family members.
"The findings support safe storage of guns," the authors wrote. But as the analysis points out, "there are no federal laws requiring safe storage of guns, and no federal standards for firearm locks."
In America today, firearms outnumber people. Of the 332 million U.S. residents estimated by the Census Bureau, more than 81 million own about 390 million guns.
"Parents play a key role in developing safe practices and are ultimately responsible for the behavior and safety of their children," the National Rifle Association says. Yet there are no Indiana statutes requiring gun owners to lock their weapons.
Indiana gun laws provide that a child's parent or guardian commits the crime of "dangerous control of a child" if he or she knowingly, intentionally or recklessly permits a child to possess a firearm. But there's no law that either requires unattended firearms to be stored in a certain way, or a locking device to accompany the sale of a firearm.
We believe state lawmakers should consider legislation mandating all firearms be securely stored in a locked gun safe so they can't be accessed by curious children. Hoosiers must have proof of insurance after purchasing a vehicle. Why shouldn't it be compulsory for gun owners to safely store their firearms in their homes?
Critics of the legislation could argue that all taxpayers should not have to subsidize gun owners for safety training or equipment. But Lucas' HB 1347 is a start. By providing a carrot to gun owners in the form of tax credits, more Indiana firearms could be secured with adoption of the proposal. That's reason enough for it to be approved by both chambers and signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb.
Even the most diligent gun-owning parents can't hope to watch their children every second of every day, which is why safe use and storage is critical for all Hoosier residents.