Gun owners should absolutely lock up their weapons.
Whether by use of gun safes or trigger locks, weapons that are secured are far less of a threat to be used to commit violence or suicide than those that can easily be accessed. This fact can’t be disputed.
However, the proposal to create a safe-storage ordinance in Lincoln, as has been kicked around for more than a year now, hit a roadblock last week after a task force failed to recommend that step. Rather than adding new rules, the 17 members suggested increased education and enforcement of existing laws.
In its report issued last week, the group convened by then-Mayor Chris Beutler espoused what we feel is the correct approach to this problem.
The Journal Star editorial board’s chief concern of a safe-storage ordinance is its enforceability. During a long discussion when the topic was first introduced last year, several members expressed concern about how a potential violation would be brought to police attention.
An unintended consequence could include that a victim whose gun was stolen from, say, an unlocked vehicle would elect not to notify police for fear of being cited. Obviously, leaving an unsecured weapon where it can be pilfered is a terrible decision – but the greater public good is served by informing law enforcement of the firearm so that it can be taken off the streets.
Rather than creating a chilling effect on the reporting of these crimes, the better option from a legal perspective is to crack down on existing laws – such as enforcing the ordinance already on the books that bans the storage of guns inside vehicles for longer than 24 hours. Another good idea in the report includes an ordinance mandating reporting of gun thefts, with a grace period for victims of these thefts.
Beyond that, though, local officials can expand upon present safety efforts.
Free gun locks are offered at annual gun amnesty events sponsored by the Lincoln Police Department, and multiple City Council members expressed an interest in growing this program. The task force also recommended Lancaster County agencies hand out trigger locks and information on safe gun storage to applicants for handgun purchase permits.
The task force’s report paints the picture of the tragedy that can occur when guns aren’t properly stored. Lincoln has seen 12 youth commit suicide using firearms that were either unlocked or easily accessible to children, in addition to accidental gunshot injuries and deaths.
Nobody wants to endure the heartbreak that follows. No better way exists to prevent these horrific situations than having gun owners properly lock, secure and store their weapons.
Lincoln can most effectively accomplish that goal by using existing means, rather than by creating a new ordinance with concerns about its enforcement.