The Alaska chapters of Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action, both part of Everytown for Gun Safety, today released the following statement after Representative Adam Wool (D-Fairbanks) introduced HB 203, which would require firearms to be securely stored when not in use. Representative Steve Thompson (R-Fairbanks) has also co-sponsored the bill.
“Gun violence has continued to devastate our communities across the state,” said Patty Owen, a volunteer with the Alaska chapter of Moms Demand Action. “Alaska has the highest rate of gun deaths in the country and lawmakers must prioritize preventing this public health crisis. This bill is an important first step to addressing gun violence in the state.”
Secure firearm storage reduces the risk of gun violence, particularly among children, by helping to prevent unintentional shootings and gun suicides. During the coronavirus pandemic, unintentional shootings among children have risen with more people home and isolated from friends and family. 2020 saw a 19 percent increase over 2019 in unintentional shootings by children of themselves or others.
Firearms are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Alaska where an average of 22 children and teens die by guns every year, and 61 percent of these deaths are suicide. Alaska has one of the highest rates of firearm suicide among young people.
According to the #NotAnAccident Index, which tracks unintentional shootings by children since 2015, nearly 350 American children under the age of 18 gain access to a firearm and unintentionally shoot themselves or someone else each year — equaling almost one unintentional shooting per day. Additionally, 700 children die by gun suicide each year, most often using guns belonging to a family member.
A 2019 study estimated that if half of households with children switched from leaving their guns unlocked to responsibly storing them all locked, one-third of youth gun suicides and unintentional deaths could be prevented – saving an estimated 251 lives in a single year.
Every year, 174 people die by guns in Alaska — making it the state with the highest rate of gun deaths in the country. Gun violence costs Alaska $1.1 billion each year, of which $42.8 million is paid by taxpayers.
More information about secure storage legislation can be found here. Statistics about gun violence in Alaska are available here, and information on how Alaska’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.