Congressman Jim Langevin (D-RI) introduced legislation Wednesday to protect children from unsecured firearms. The Child Gun Access Prevention Act would promote state laws that hold gun owners criminally liable if their firearms are used by children.
“Millions of children across the country live in homes with unsecured, loaded guns,” said Congressman Langevin. “This poses a serious public safety hazard. An unsecured gun in the home is tied to dramatically increased rates of youth suicide and unintentional child gun injuries. We’ve also seen devastating cases where children have gained access to their parents’ guns and used them to kill purposefully. Adult gun owners must lock up their guns, and when they fail to do so, they must be held responsible.”
Fourteen states (including Rhode Island) and the District of Columbia currently have laws, known as Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, which hold gun owners liable for negligent gun storage that leads to child access. Studies have found that these laws are associated with a decline in both youth suicides and unintentional child gun deaths and injuries. However, many state laws are not comprehensive – they don’t apply to 16 and 17 year olds, for instance – and they are rarely enforced.
“School shootings are made all the more tragic when they are clearly preventable,” continued Langevin. “I believe in comprehensive gun violence prevention legislation to stop deadly weapons from getting in the hands of dangerous criminals. But even lawful gun owners’ firearms can be put to terrible use when they are left accessible to children, as we have seen this year in Benton, Kentucky, and Santa Fe, Texas. CAP provisions ensure that safe storage isn’t just a good idea: it’s the law.”
The Child Gun Access Prevention Act would provide funds to states to assist them in implementing strong CAP laws that hold adults criminally liable if they leave an unsecured firearm in a manner that is accessible to a child under age 18. The bill would also direct the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to study child gun injuries and deaths, and it would require gun dealers to provide safe storage information with each sale.
This legislation is supported by Everytown for Gun Safety and the Rhode Island Chapter of Moms Demand Action.