A Democratic legislator in Kentucky has pre-filed a bill that would criminalize the “unlawful storage of a firearm” if that firearm is accessed by a minor.
Rep. George Brown, Jr., who is sponsoring several pieces of anti-gun legislation this year, would have anyone whose firearm is improperly stored and accessed by a minor charged with a Class B Misdemeanor. If “physical injury or death results” from a minor accessing that firearm, the gun owner would be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor.
“We can err on the side of abundant caution and just to make sure people keep their guns secure,” Rep. Brown said. “That’s it. That’s really all it’s calling about.”
The bill is titled the “Baby Dre Gun Safety Act” after Andre O’Neal, an 8-year-old boy in Louisville who was killed by a stray bullet in January 2016. The boy was shot while being cared for by a babysitter after a man accidentally dropped a handgun.
The man was convicted of reckless homicide, but Luther Brown, O’Neal’s grandfather believes more accountability is needed. He claims that charges are often not brought in the accidental shooting deaths of children, especially when one child shoots another.
“Now we want to change that because adults need to be held accountable,” Brown said.
Ironically, Rep. Brown’s bill would not apply in the tragic case of O’Neal. The bill criminalizes gun owners who “recklessly store or leave a firearm” in a manner which would allow a minor to have unsupervised access to it. Acceptable manners of storage include a securely locked container, a device which renders the firearm temporarily inoperable, or carrying the firearm on a person’s body.
In O’Neal’s case, the man was carrying the firearm when he dropped it. It’s also not clear whether he owned the firearm in question, and he wasn’t a minor. Rep. Brown’s bill only applies if a minor gains access to the firearm.
But Rep. Brown is still hoping that attaching O’Neal’s name to the bill will spur his fellow lawmakers to support it. Similar bills have died in the Republican-controlled legislature.
“I would hope it does or it will,” Rep. Brown said. “And I think that Baby Dre’s name could be replaced by any baby or any child.”
Preventable or accidental gun-related deaths have never been lower in the United States, thanks in large part to safe gun storage efforts of organizations like the National Shooting Sports Foundation. According to the National Safety Council, accidental/preventable gun-related deaths have dropped 44 percent between 1999 and 2018.