As part of the slate of anti-gun legislation making its way through the U.S. Congress, Democrats are pushing a bill that would criminalize gun owners for storing their firearms in a location not deemed “secure.”
Citing debunked statistics about the number of “children” killed or injured with unsecured firearms, the parents of a minor who accidentally shot himself with a firearm owned by the father of his friend pleaded with lawmakers to pass “Ethan’s Law.”
“The goal of Ethan’s Law is simple,” Kristin Song said during a video press conference. “It’s to create a cultural shift where it becomes second nature for gun owners to secure their weapons when they’re not in their immediate control — the same type of cultural shift that we’ve seen with car seats, with seat belts, with smoke detectors.”
She added, “Don’t do it for me. Don’t’ do it for Ethan. Do it for your children. Do it for your grandchildren.”
Song is the mother of Ethan Song, a 15-year-old Connecticut high school student who shot himself with a .357 Magnum owned by the father of his friend. The father, Dan Markle, was not charged under Connecticut’s safe storage law because there was no proof that he stored the weapon in a loaded state, according to the Hartford Courant.
Markle kept his firearms secured with gun locks in a plastic container in his bedroom closet, but keys to the locks and ammunition also were in the container, police said.
Song blasted Markle during a 2018 press conference shortly after the incident.
“What parent in his right mind would store his guns with the keys in the same container when they know teenage boys are in the house?” she said. “Know this. I would have traded places with Ethan in a second if that meant he could live. That is what a parent looks like. Dan, I hope when you close your eyes at night that you see Ethan’s face, but not the beautiful one that it once was but the face after he was shot.”
Ethan’s law would criminalize gun owners who know or reasonably should know that a minor or prohibited person is likely to gain access to the firearms. Gun owners are exempt from the law if they store their firearms under one of three conditions:
- Using a secure gun storage or safety device
- In a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure
- Carries the firearm on his or her person or within such close proximity thereto that the person can readily retrieve and use the firearm as if the person carried the firearm on his or her person.
The legislation does not define “secure gun storage of safety device,” nor does it explain how a “reasonable person” can know whether a location is “secure.”
Violators will be subject to a $500 fine. If a minor or prohibited person causes injury or death with the gun owner’s firearm, the gun owner could face up to 5 years in prison.
The Songs and others who promote safe storage mandates cite statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and claim that eight children per day are unintentionally killed or injured with unsecured firearms in the United States.
The media parrot these statistics without verifying them. As GunsAmerica reported in 2018, anti-gun lobbyists include 18 and 19-year-old adults to reach the eight “children” per day threshold. If only minors are included (age 0-17), the number is closer to four. If only small children who might not know better are included (ages 0-10), the number is closer to one. For perspective, about 1.3 children unintentionally drown each day in the United States.
None of this is stopping the Songs and their allies in Congress from their crusade. As Michael Song, Ethan’s father, explained, keeping guns stored “safely” is a “beautiful thing.”
“Our friends who own guns are in favor of Ethan’s Law, virtually all of them,” Michael Song said. “And they are because they know that their kids also play in other people’s homes. … You can secure your gun and do a beautiful thing for you and your family.”