Ja’Mecca Smith (courtesy washingtonpost.com)

“Ja’Mecca Smith was the youngest of seven children, the baby of the family,” washingtonpost.com reports. “She loved tic-tac-toe and the Disney movie ‘Frozen’ and the color red. She was a member of the first grade honor roll, a cheerful little girl with a sense of humor and a gap-toothed smile. But police say a combination of negligence, a child’s curiosity and cruel circumstance ended her life Saturday, when Ja’Mecca accidentally shot herself in the head with a loaded gun she found tucked between the cushions of a sofa in her father’s home.” Needless to say, the Post peppered their story about a negligent discharge with quotes from the usual gun control suspects . . .

“The fact that a child got a gun isn’t an accident, that’s negligence” Viviana Goldenberg, a member of the Georgia chapter of Moms Demand Action, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Clay’s death.

“It’s literally terrifying, and this is happening all over the country,” she continued. “There is no gun owner responsibility. They’re not thinking of what measures to do to prevent access of the children to the gun.” . . .

The advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety says that its own review of accidental gun deaths revealed a number that was almost twice as high: It found 100 children had been killed in unintentional shootings between December 2012 and December 2013. Most of the deaths took place in a home or vehicle belonging to the victim’s family and involved guns that were legally owned but not secured.

The group said that roughly 70 percent of cases might have been avoided if the gun had been stored locked and unloaded. About 2 million American children live in homes with unsecured guns.

Posterior pulling stats much? Anyway, would a “safe storage law” – as championed by gun control advocates – have saved Ja’Mecca’s life? Before answering that, consider this: according to Everytown for Gun Safety (yes them), 28 U.S. states already have “child access prevention statutes.” That list includes Georgia, where Ja’Mecca met her end. All states have laws regarding child endangerment.

I reckon all six-year-olds should be taught gun safety (if not sooner). And safe storage laws – which require guns to be locked away, unloaded, separate from ammunition – put lives in danger by preventing quick access. Besides, government intrusion. Your thoughts?

61 Responses to Question of the Day: Would Safe Storage Laws Save Children’s Lives?

  1. Most laws don’t prevent individual incidents. They’re ‘protective’ effect in saving lives is by dissuading folks by threat of punishment. Will there be folks who would be motivated to properly store/secure firearms and teach their kids if there is a law, who otherwise wouldn’t? Probably. But there will still be folks who won’t, just as there are still people who run red lights, drive drunk, assault others….despite the penalties in the law for doing so.

  2. First question to ask in this case, was her father in legal position of the firearm? No number of safe gun storage laws will make a bit of difference to those who are in illegal possession of a firearm.

    And since the ‘safe-storgae-laws’ are after the fact laws (unless you advocate government inspectors of private homes), would the time, effort, and money be far more effectively spent in education? That is if the chief goal is actually to prevent gun accidents and not intrude on private dwellings.

    • “Safety” is never an actual goal of these groups. But then, who are we kidding. We know that and they know that. They are simply pulling on the emotions of any uninformed voters (specifically “moms”) for support. Never the “fathers” though.

    • I’ll bet you she never knew her father, and her momma’s been with so many men she doesn’t remember which one he was. Furthermore, the guy who did own the gun (most likely a drug dealer with at least one felony) stole the gun or bought it illegally from the guy who stole it..

  3. Leaving a gun out for a child to get like in this scenario should be illegal. Just as it’s illegal to leave a bottle of bleach out on the floor for your toddler to drink from.

    These stories do not help us with the PR side of things.

    • Unless you can prove malice, how would leaving bleach out be illegal, and what law actually makes it so?

      • There are catch-all laws on the book everywhere. For instance, here in Washington State, if the kid drank bleach or shot themselves in the foot, they could be charged with abuse or neglect.
        Secure gun storage in my mind is a no-brainer. Not only for children, but anytime there is someone who may be not of the right mind. Also, we as gun owners need to embrace the notion that we DON’T WANT OUR GUNS FALLING IN THE WRONG HANDS. I know I don’t and I’m pretty damn serious about it.
        Don’t leave your gun in your car where it can easily be stolen. Lock your guns up at home. I live alone and my weapons are locked up except for my daily carry which is near me at all times. In the very rare occasion I leave the house for an hour and don’t take my weapon, it gets locked up, but that happens maybe…once a year.

        • “…Also, we as gun owners need to embrace the notion that we DON’T WANT OUR GUNS FALLING IN THE WRONG HANDS.”

          AND, we as gun owners need to remember that we DON”T WANT THE GOVERNMENT TELLING US HOW TO DO THAT!

          The government is going to stop everyone from getting guns because they can’t tell which are the right or wrong hands.

          And when is everyone going to get hip to the fact that laws don’t prevent anything? Robbing banks is illegal but people still do it. Shooting people is illegal, but people still do it. Laws don’t prevent. Laws define what is criminal so it can be prosecuted after the fact. Safe Storage Laws will prevent exactly zero deaths because it can’t prevent anything, it is a law.

        • I’d bet that many guns stolen from vehicles were left in the vehicles because some other anti-firearm do-gooder thought it would be a great idea to ban guns at whatever place that gunowner was visiting.

          Something like 11 vehicles were broken into recently at the Texas Renaissance Festival and guns stolen, because guns are banned at the festival. That count included a GLOCK and a hunting rifle stolen out of an ex-cop’s truck. Funny how so-called good intentions can come back to bite you in the butt. Best course is just to avoid ever trying to steal people’s rights in the first place.

        • Hey Chirp!
          “DON”T WANT THE GOVERNMENT TELLING US HOW TO DO THAT”
          The government doesn’t tell me to do that. I said embrace it. Like………voluntary! As in, be extra responsible.
          No, I don’t want the government telling jack f– sh– !

          And yes, leaving your gun in the car because of gun free zones is a travesty.

    • That is just friggin’ scary that somewhere it is illegal to leave a bottle of bleach “out”. What the heck is “out”? Middle of kitchen floor, sitting on the washing machine in the laundry room, middle of the garage floor, in a floor level cabinet?

      Laws like that are exactly why I’m so suspicious of “More Laws to Fix X!” mentality.

  4. No it would not. The children would be raped and killed because the mother or father could not get to the gun in time.

    The homosexual power city of San Francisco does believe in telling people what to do in their bedroom with guns. Perhaps the Post agrees with the leadership of San Francisco?

  5. Anyone irresponsible or stupid enough to leave a gun in the couch cushions with a child around most likely isn’t going to be responsible or smart enough to follow any “safe storage” laws…

    You can’t legislate away stupidity.

    • Not enough information to evaluate this situation. We need to know who “Daddy” is and why he thought it was in his (and his daughter’s) best interest to have a pistol tucked between the seat cushions of his couch. Was he gang affiliated and feared rivals coming through the front door? Did he live in a high crime neighborhood with a high instance of home invasions? Did he have outstanding warrants that might include “no-knock” visit by local law enforcement?

      You cannot draw conclusions without sufficient access to the facts.

    • Sounds pretty on the surface and it’s a good start, but it’s not close to being full proof enough. If there are children around, the guns need to be locked up. Nothing is full proof. Sh– happens. Doors don’t get closed, the phone rings, the lock sticks, but each person can take steps to insure safe gun storage as opposed to doing nothing.

      • Your comment is crap. I grew up with firearms, shooting since I was about 6. My folks taught me how to check weapons , how to load and unload. I did get out Dad’s pistols (when I had a shot at not getting caught ), at about the same age! But I knew enough to safe the danged things! Never a negligent discharge. Raised my kids and now my grandkids the same way.

        • I completely agree Sarge! Ridiculous laws that make no sense, yet even people of the gun clamor for more. It is complete insanity! We grew up with guns all around the house, we never touched them. Be a parent and take responsibility for raising your children. Do not depend on the State to do it for you.

  6. Like everything else the devil is in the details. I think it is the responsible owners obligation to securely store there firearms, either against children or thiefs.

    The question is what do you consider secure. Is a gun in the center console of a locked car secure? How about a gun in a lady purse that she places inside of her shopping cart? How about the quick access safes from gun vault? It would only take about 30 seconds and a crow bar to get access.

  7. 2 things:

    #1 – examine pre-teen deaths by gunshots in Massachusetts and you’ll have your answer since they require locked storage.

    #2 – I’m not a fan of us pushing other gun owners to lock guns up. I “survived” living with my parents and grandparents as a kid and there were at least a dozen guns out in the open in the house, including one over my bed. Not once did I do anything I knew was wrong in regards to firearms handling. It’s better to teach people than it is to hide equipment. Plus we were pretty poor so break-ins weren’t a big worry.

    • Teaching is so important, especially after a certain age (which will, admittedly, vary greatly across kids). Regardless, the father failed. He needed to know his house, know his individual kid, and take whatever measures were needed to keep the kid safe given that knowledge. That’s his job as a father. In this case, he left a gun between the couch cushions with a kid likely to use the couch. No way to justify that, even if the kid did know safe gun handling. But you can’t legislate away stupidity.

  8. Apparently there were applicable charges (and thus laws) that will likely result in prison for Mr. Smith. I’d say those laws didn’t save this girls life.

  9. A first grader, unless mentally incompetent, is plenty old enough to understand the Eddie Eagle four steps. If the parents were not negligent in the education of their child, by six years old they should understand at least Rule #1 of safe gun handling as well, never point a gun at something you’re not willing to destroy.

  10. This is an iffy for me. Safe storage should be a practice of everyone with children. Should it be a law? No, because such laws when applied equally with respect to the constitution can only really be enforced after an incident. A negligent parent should not be punished a second time (1st being the potential loss of a child). As for my first point on safe storage, it should be part of a comprehensive plan to firearms with children. Teaching them real gun safety as well as instilling in them a healthy, respectful, fear firearms. Not the deranged, hysterical, extremely hoplophobic fear that the anti-gunners posses and try to ram down the throughts of the american populace.

    On a side note, I never hid my firearms from my girls. I cleaned them in front of them (they could help whenever they asked) and if they ever asked to hold one of them, i would make them safe in front of them (or verify it is safe). Then, and only then, will i hand them a personally verified unloaded firearm. I would watch for how the held it (to prevent cuping and maintain the booger hook off the bang switch). As a result, their curiocities were satiated in a safe, healthy way.

    • “Should it be a law? No, because such laws when applied equally with respect to the constitution can only really be enforced after an incident.”

      The laws proposed by lifestyle reform movements (the Mom’s and other gun-controllers are certainly that) are predictably more symbolic than real, intended to enforce their rules so they can observe the rest of us showing the proper respect for their values. Whether the rules actually work or not is secondary to the fact that they exist. That, in itself, is reason to question proposals like this. Children have safely lived around firearms for centuries without having such restrictive laws passed. You can’t fix stupid. Laws can’t fix stupid.

    • What if the parent didn’t care about their kid? Should they get a pass on criminal prosecution, too? What about a parent who murders their child? They lost a child, too.

      Be careful. You’re providing an easy out for parents who no longer want their kids: Just leave a gun out and let the problem solve itself. It’s like intentionally leaving a car you don’t want anymore on some dark street with the keys in it, hoping it will be stolen.

      We punish crimes for many reasons, but one of which is based on the harm the crime causes to society. Focusing on losses incurred only by the perpetrator himself can introduce some seriously perverse incentives.

  11. Perhaps marginally, but likely not.

    Responsible gun owning parents will be aware of the issues and will take steps to address them in a fashion that works for their family.

    Irresponsible gun owning parents, won’t.

    I think both of these statements will generally hold whether there’s a specific law regarding gun storage, general laws regarding child endangerment, or no laws. The real difference will be after the tragedy, e.g. if the parents are charged with a crime and what the penalties are.

  12. My father, an NYPD officer practiced safe gun storage. His two guns went into a wooded box placed on the top shelf of his closet and we were told “If you want to keep your fingers, don’t touch the guns”. It really worked.

  13. Should there be a law that car keys should be safely secured? No law is going to make parents talk to their kids. In fact it’s one more reason not to. My kids & their friends wore seat belts before there was a law. Why? It’s a safety feature.

    They never argued. Why? Because I just said put them on and I always put mine on.

    Yes, teach your kids or don’t expect them to not touch the stove, drink bleach or shoot your gun.

  14. No, safe storage laws will not help. This child’s parents already committed a crime called ‘felony child endangerment’ and they should be prosecuted and convicted. They will subsequently receive prison time, a lengthy probation and the loss of their rights to vote and possess firearms. Making their actions doubly illegal will do what exactly?

    • Ah yes, according to the article;

      ‘Smith was arrested Sunday and charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless conduct, according to Fulton County Jail records.’

      If he wasn’t a felon before he is now.

      • Thank you, “there should be a law” is actually “there IS a law.” “Securing” a firearm can mean many things, including keeping it on your person where access is limited to putting it in a safe. These people wanna talk about “common sense” well stuffing a gun in a couch with kids around is NOT common sense.

  15. No law or number of laws is going to prevent the type of moron who would jam a gun into the couch cushions from jamming a gun into the couch cushions.

    I’ve learned that most people have no clue what sorts of laws are on the books. I work with an individual who has two masters degrees and a professional career who honestly had no idea it was illegal to grow marijuana. Just a moment ago I explained to an Obama voter what the healthcare penalty was if she didn’t get coverage. She had no clue there was mandated coverage. It’s as if these people live completely unaware of the world around them.

    Complete ignorance of the law aside there is raw stupidity. Leaving a gun stuck between couch cushions is raw stupidity. No legislation can alter the stupid things a stupid person may do. Legislation can only punish the stupid person for having done a stupid thing.

    So the answer is no.

  16. No safe storage laws dont save children’s lives. Good parenting saves children’s lives.

    If they want to get serious about making life safer for everyone including children, end the welfare state. Paying the bottom tier of society to procreate is societal suicide.

  17. Irresponsible adults are not affected by laws. That is why they are irresponsible. No law is even 80% effective..

  18. Being in gun sales myself, I consider it partof my job to ask my first-time customers how they plan to store their new firearm in their home. Answers will always vary depending on their individual needs but I like seeing their expressions change as they suddenly start wondering for the first time the same question. I daresay most of the readers on this site are responsible enough to properly secure their unattended firearms, but we all need to remember: the majority of people who own firearms in America do not read TTAG.
    Make it a personal point to bring up safety when any of you are talking guns with a newbie, there’s a good chance they never considered it.
    As for the parents of this deceased young girl: a prosecution for negligent homicide is the only response to this, but even if a guilty verdict were shouted out from every headline for a week, not a single life would be saved unless EVERY gun owner is made to ask themselves “where is my gun right now?” Be the hammer that smacks them between the eyes. Ask, and talk about it.

    • This is one of the most thoughtful posts I’ve seen on TTAG this year, a site with many thoughtful and thought-provoking posts.

  19. It is the parents responsibility to teach their children safety when they reach an age they can understand as well as eliminate access to hazardous materials when they cannot (e.g. Antifreeze, compound 1080, Diphacinone, gasoline cans, artificial nail removers, cosmetics, matches, sharp knives, soaps/detergents, medicines, etc etc et al.)

    Something tells me legislating responsibility and/or morals isn’t going to work as expected. Furthermore, the majority of people wouldn’t like how safe storage laws in the home would be enforced.

    Why should we even ask the question “Would Safe Storage Laws Save Children’s Lives?” Banning tylenol, or second story homes or swimming pools would probably save more lives. In my opinion, we could use a little “less” nanny state oversight – not more.

  20. Safe storage laws only permit the government to prosecute people after an event. They don’t save lives, but they may ruin them since they are punitive in nature.

    The Eddie Eagle program is proactive, takes effect before damage occurs, is not punitive in nature and may actually save lives. That, and the fact that Eddie Eagle is an NRA program, is why the left hates it.

  21. There shouldn’t be a law requiring you to brush your teeth and wear clean underpants.
    But you really should brush your goddamn teeth and wear clean goddamn underpants.

  22. Safe storage laws? Yes we should single out gun owners for yet another unenforceable criminal law with severe penalties. Nothing will make us safer than yet another felony penalty imposed on those who exercise their 2nd amendment rights. This addition to the criminal code can and will be written as broadly as possible to cover everyone, all the time, not just those with children in their homes. Just look at how the universal background check laws define and criminalize temporary transfers.

    Shannon’s Sugar Daddy and his paid liars have an end goal. As the Hysterical Mother said, “Mike and I want guns gone.”

  23. no law will save anyones life unless a person DECIDES to follow it. so again, its up to the people to make our world safe not words on a page.

  24. First you need to define the problem, then you need to quantify it to find out if it really is a problem.

    How many 0-12 year olds died in the USA last year?

    How many of them died as a result of an accidental shooting?

    If the accidental shootings are less than 1% of the total, then the ‘problem’ was solved years ago.

  25. Like others, I want to know what safe storage is and how it is enforced.

    My guns are stored in the safe, unloaded. A magazine has 15 rounds of HST and sits right next to the pistol. The time needed to load and chamber is negligible in the grand scheme, but I do this because the kids are young and we have the even younger kids of friends come over. For us, that is safe storage.

    My in laws have their guns scattered around the house, loaded and chambered. They have no children most of the time and the guns are put away when the grandkids come over. For them, that is safe storage.

    To mandate a specific level of storage is absurd and, as others indicate, are nearly impossible to enforce.

    In this case, a home with small children, your have the attractive nuisance problem. Even if you focus on teaching them the right thing to do, decision-making is not mature. That gun should either been on a person or inaccessible. For a six year old, the latter is either a very high shelf (where stools cannot reach) or locked up. The danger with out of reach is that kids grow fast. Sometimes I can’t believe how much my 5 year old can get to.

  26. Safe storage laws preventing negligence will be just as equally effective as banning firearms preventing violent crime.

  27. Negligence…similar to backing a car up without looking.
    This is a result of bad parenting.
    And the laws pn the books already cover this.
    Prayers to the little girl and the family.Amen.

  28. I vehemently oppose “safe storage” laws that render firearms useless. That endangers lives as well.

    I enthusiastically support holding parents accountable when their negligence causes harm to their children, regardless of any items involved. I don’t care whether a parent leaves a pot of 350 degree oil sitting on the floor or a loaded firearm on the floor — allowing children to access either and harm themselves is egregious beyond description and warrants years in prison.

    The simple answer is for parents to ensure that their young children cannot access loaded, operational firearms. Whether that means keeping a loaded handgun on your hip, or loaded firearms on a shelf near the ceiling well beyond the reach of children, or even in a locked cabinet/safe, is immaterial. What is important is making sure your young children cannot access loaded firearms and harm themselves. In that light laws that dictate how to prevent access are not the answer.

  29. Nope, because people who store guns irresponsibly will continue to store guns irresponsibly even if it’s illegal.

    All this will do is put 2 or 3 more grieving parents in prison per year, because it’s pretty much unenforcable anyway.

  30. As long even one child dies in a firearm accident the gun prohibitionists will clamor for Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws. As it is, fatal firearm accidents (ages up to 14) have been decreasing for decades and are now vanishingly rare–69 for the year 2013 (CDC stats), and that’s in a nation of 320 million people . This has happened even as the U.S. population has more than doubled and gun ownership has skyrocketed.

    We need education, not legislation.

    Timothy Wheeler, MD
    Director
    Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership
    A Project of the Second Amendment Foundation

  31. Safe storage laws requiring them to be stored taken down and away from ammunition are ridiculous and may not help save lives, but in these instances, storing the guns (assembled) in a safe or a safe place would have saved lives. That’s obvious. It is a fact that if that gun was in a safe instead of between couch cushions, that girl would not have shot herself. Guns should not be left in the couch, on the table, on a shelf, etc., anywhere where a curious kid could find it. No matter how much they’ve been taught, kids simply don’t have good self control. And spare me the “I survived with guns on every night stand in my house” that everyone here seems to be proud to spout off. That doesn’t mean it was intelligent or a good decision for those guns to be left out. A lot of people also survive car rides without buckling up, but that doesn’t make driving a car without your seat belt smart.

    Sure, the numbers are low, but if it was my kid, I don’t care about the numbers, I care about my child, which is why I lock up my firearms (not disassembled, mind you), except for the one on my hip.

    • The seatbelt analogy doesn’t really hold up, as it’s entirely possible to be injured in a car crash despite your own exercise of good judgement. A gun on a nightstand, however, isn’t going to bother anyone unless and until somebody pulls the trigger.

      Now, it’s possible that a child’s friend could access your firearm and accidentally harm your child. Still, your child shouldn’t be hanging around someone playing with a gun, anyway, regardless where they got it. They should leave and tell an adult, as Eddie Eagle teaches for any found gun.

  32. “Safe storage” as envisioned by the antis? No. They want a disassmbled and trigger-locked gun locked in one safe and ammunition locked in another safe in another room. Each safe would require a pass code, key, fingerprint scan and retinal I.D from two owners simultaneously. ICBMs can be launched with less security than they demand.

    Such laws dissuade some would-be gunowners from becoming gunowners, for irrational fear of being a parent who owns firearms and rational fear of the potential legal minefield they’re entering. They also leave families vulnerable to attack, the likes of which the firearm was intended as a defense.

  33. There is inherent danger that comes with freedom. It is absolutely tragic that this child was killed but in a free society it is not possible to create absolute safety for the population. The very essence of freedom means that we are free to screw up. If we try to regulate ourselves into complete safety so that things like this tragedy never happen, we are no longer free!

  34. I have a problem with something that gets repeated on this site, and in this thread, a lot. Basically it’s the idea that kids will be irresponsible with guns unless they’re taught about them growing up.

    And that’s just false. My parents never had guns, and never taught us a thing about them, yet my brother and I grew up buying toy guns, later buying BB guns, and eventually the real thing, without any incidents or injuries. We learned, studied, and trained without any input from our parents, and today people come to us for firearms advice.

    You don’t have to teach kids to be responsible with guns specifically (although it doesn’t hurt)- just teach them to be responsible.

    Negligent parents will be negligent whether there’s guns or not, and the same goes for responsible ones.

  35. One problem with statistics on kid’s who die in gun accidents is that we don’t know the ages of the shooters. This girl shot herself, another kid might have been shot by another kid, but most of these go unreported. I actually have a hunch that most kids that die from gun injuries die from adults mishandling guns. The vast majority of negligent discharges are from adults, not kids, so it may follow that it’s the adults accidently shooting kids which would mean no amount of safe storage would significantly help.

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