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Seattle politician aims to take safe gun storage law national

(US Air Force photo)

Seattle passed and implemented a safe gun storage law over the past year. Now, one of its higher lawmakers wants to take such gun control regulations nationwide.

“Establishing reasonable, common sense standards for storing guns and gun locks in the home is just one simple part of the responsibility we have to keep children and families safe,” said Rep. Pramila Jayapal in a statement Wednesday. “It is our moral imperative to do all we can to prevent the all-too-frequent occurrence of gun violence, and I’m proud to partner with Rep. Engel in introducing this important piece of legislation.”

Initial numbers from Seattle’s safe gun storage law are in … sort of

Jayapal represents Washington’s 7th congressional district, which covers Edmonds through Seattle and Burien, and Vashon Island. Along with Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), she is proposing the Safe Gun Storage Act in Washington D.C. HR 4691 was introduced Thursday.

They argue that a majority of gun owners (54 percent) do not safely store their firearms, and that 34 percent of homes with guns also have youth ages 18 years and younger. They further argue that 18 percent of all gun injuries happen because of improperly stored guns.

Little is known, yet, about exactly what is in the bill (the representatives did not include a copy in their press releases about it), but a statement about the Safe Gun Storage Act says that it will direct the “Consumer Protection Safety Commission to establish safety standards for firearm safes and firearm locks.”

While gun safety and crime is often cited as a reason for such safe storage regulations, Engel points out that suicide prevention is a primary goal with this legislation.

“Our nation has been plagued with gun violence. But what too often gets lost in the debate is the suicide rate by firearm,” Rep. Engel said. “Youth suicide rates are already staggeringly high and have been trending upward. We must decrease them, and we can, by ensuring firearm safes and firearm locks are used in homes. Those safes and locks also must have strong safety standards to prevent unauthorized people, especially children, from gaining access to firearms. This bill will save lives and I’m proud to introduce it with my colleague Rep. Jayapal. I thank her for joining me in this effort to keep our families and communities safe.”

Majority of gun owners don’t safely store firearms in Washington

Engel’s office argues that studies have shown that a 10 percent increase in households with guns equates to a 25 percent increase in suicides by firearms. Also, in 2016, the Centers for Disease Control reported that 60 percent of all firearm deaths were from suicides; in 2017, 43 percent of all youth suicides involved guns.

Seattle passed a safe gun storage law in 2018. When it was proposed, city officials cited similar issues with gun storage — that 150,000 adults in King County were estimated to store their guns unlocked. Also, about 250 guns were reported as stolen in 2017.

Seattle’s storage law states that firearms should be stored in a locked container and rendered unusable by any person other than the authorized user. It is a civil infraction if a minor or unauthorized person accesses a gun. Fines are imposed between $500 and $1,000 on the owner. If someone commits a crime with the owner’s gun, fines go up to $10,000 and the owner will be considered negligent.

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