This week, the House State, Civic, Military & Veterans Affairs Committee passed HB21-1106, a bill to require firearms that a juvenile or prohibited person might be able to access be securely stored when not under the control of the gun owner. The bill is expected to come before the full House next week. In the Senate, SB21-078, which would require gun owners to report to law enforcement when a gun is lost or stolen, was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.
Secure firearm storage reduces the risk of gun violence, particularly among children, by helping to prevent unintentional shootings, gun suicides, and school shootings. Ensuring gun owners are securely storing their guns is more important than ever:
- During 2020 and throughout the pandemic, gun sales in the United States increased 81 percent between March and November 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
- Having kids home from school and isolated from friends and extended family elevates the risk of youth suicide.
- Even before the gun-buying surge, estimates indicate that 4.6 million American children lived in households with at least one unlocked and loaded firearm. This ready access to guns is concerning given that nearly three in four firearm suicides by young people take place in or around a home.
Firearms are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Colorado. In Colorado, an average of 63 children and teens die by guns every year, and 59 percent of these deaths are suicide.
HB21-1106 and SB21-078 would save lives by requiring firearms be securely stored when not under the control of the gun owner and for gun owners to report to law enforcement when a gun is lost or stolen:
- 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.
- 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 — equalling almost one unintentional shooting per day.
- One study showed that 41 percent of adolescents in gun-owning households report having “easy access” to the guns in their home.
- In incidents of gunfire on school grounds, 74 percent of shooters under the age of 18 obtained their guns from home or the homes of relatives or friends.
- Research shows that secure firearm storage is associated with a decreased risk of child firearm suicide. One study showed that households that locked both firearms and ammunition had a 78 percent lower risk of self-inflicted firearm injuries among children and teenagers compared to those that locked neither.
- For people of all ages, access to a gun increases the risk of death by suicide by three times.
- One study showed that over 80 percent of children under the age of 18 who died by gun suicide used a gun belonging to a parent or relative.
- The number of guns stolen each year has steadily increased over at least the last decade, and these thefts often divert guns into an underground market where people with dangerous histories are easily able to obtain firearms without restriction. Reporting of lost or stolen guns allows the police to respond more quickly to gun thefts and helps them identify tracking patterns.
More information about secure storage legislation here. Statistics about gun violence in Colorado are available here, and information on how Colorado’s gun laws compare to other states’ overall is available here.