A Bay Area congresswoman’s new gun-control bill would require that all handguns have child-safety mechanisms built in.
Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo, said her Child Handgun Safety Act is inspired by a series of tragedies nationwide – most recently, a 5-year-old girl in New Orleans accidentally shot and killed herself with a .38-caliber revolver this past weekend.
“A majority of gun deaths involving children are preventable at the point of manufacturing,” Speier said in her news release. “More than half of child deaths from guns result from accidents or failure to secure guns in the home. In the past, we have taken similar safety measures with products such as butane lighters and prescription drug bottles. It’s inexcusable we haven’t done the same with deadly weapons. We have an urgent responsibility to prevent these tragic deaths through smart, more effective handgun policies.”
The bill would require that all handguns made, sold in, or imported into the United States incorporate technology that prevents the average 5-year-old child from operating it when it’s ready to fire. It also would require that as of two years after enactment, any handgun sold, offered for sale, traded, transferred, shipped, leased, or distributed in the U.S. be child-resistant or retrofitted with a child-resistant mechanism.
Speier said that since December’s Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Conn., 73 more children aged 12 and under have been killed with guns. Of those, 40 were due to accidental shootings, 29 of which involved a teen or child aged 17 or younger pulling the trigger. Among the specific examples Speier cited:
Corsicana, Texas: A toddler died after a self-inflicted shooting with a handgun inside a bedroom in his home, striking himself in the head.
Tampa, Fla.: A 3-year-old boy who found a gun in his uncle’s backpack shot himself and died.
Greenville County, S.C.: A 2-year-old child reached into his father’s pocket, grabbed a gun and shot himself at his grandparents’ home.
Brighton, Ala.: A 4-year-old shot a 4-year-old cousin with .38 Special pistol left on a bed.
Liberty, Mich.: The 3-year old son of a Jackson County Sheriff’s Office deputy accidentally shot and killed himself with his father’s weapon.
Lawrence Keane – senior vice president and general counsel of the Newtown, Conn.-based National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun-industry trade group – said he doesn’t doubt Speier’s intentions are good, but “there is no reason or need for the legislation she has introduced.”
“Every firearm sold in the United States today … is required to be provided with a locking device,” Keane said. “It’s the responsibility of the gun owner to secure the firearm and keep it away from unauthorized users, particularly and obviously children.”
Not only do U.S. gunmakers include a lock with every firearm they ship, but retailers also are required by law to have locks available for sale as well. And the NSSF’s Project ChildSafe, launched in 2003 and partnered with law enforcement, has distributed more than 36 million free firearm safety education kits – each including a cable-style lock.
“We’re pleased to report that while the incidents she cites in the press release are devastating and horrible, the truth is that the number of firearms fatalities involving accidents are at their lowest level since record-keeping began in 1903,” Keane said, adding that statistically, children are far more likely to die in cars, bathtubs or swimming pools than by handgun.
Speier also Thursday introduced the Modernized Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 2013, which would require the U.S. Attorney General to modify the definition of armor-piercing ammunition to conform to the bullet’s performance, rather than just its metallurgical content. New bullet propellants, coatings and materials have left the original Law Enforcement Officers Protection Act of 1986 outdated, she argues, and there’s plenty of ammo for sale now that’s capable of piercing body armor while skirting the 1986 definition.
But Keane said the existing law focuses on composition, not performance, because a performance-based standard would encompass far too much.
“Virtually all rifle ammunition would be banned under her bill,” he said, adding he’s unaware of any cases in which an alternative, non-lead-based bullet has pierced an officer’s vest. “This is an old argument that comes up every couple of years.”
Neither bill has much chance of advancing in the Republican-led House.