Today, state Senators Charleta B. Tavares (D- Columbus) and Vernon Sykes (D-Akron) introduced a bill to strictly regulate how gun owners store their guns when minors are present.
“Our children are our responsibility and their health and safety are paramount,” said Senator Tavares. “If adults choose to have a gun in their household or control, they must be held accountable to ensure that it is not accessible to or in the possession of underage children.”
“It’s always tragic when a child dies. However, the tragedy is compounded when the death could have been easily avoided,” said Senator Sykes. “This legislation will decrease the number of children we prematurely say goodbye to by keeping guns safely locked away.”
On average, a child under the age of 12 dies from a gun accident in the United States once a week. The majority of these incidents stem from children having easy access to unsecured firearms in their home or place of residence. Senators Tavares and Sykes’ legislation, Senate Bill 279, will prohibit Ohioans from improperly storing firearms and from leaving firearms unattended if they know or should reasonably expect that a minor could gain access to them.
In 2015, four in ten children under the age of 19 who died in gun-related incidents died as a result of suicide or unintentional shootings. These statistics align with research that shows that easily accessible firearms are associated with an increase in suicide and unintentional deaths among young people.
SB 279 will establish legal culpability for unsafe storage of a firearm, ranging from a third-degree misdemeanor for criminal negligent storage of a firearm to a third-degree felony if a minor gains access to the firearm and then uses it to injure or kill, except if that is done in self-defense.
Twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia already have child access prevention laws, which have been effective in reducing suicide rates, gun-related injuries and unintentional gun deaths of minors.