Jan 31, 2024 - News

Safe storage bills stagnate while more young people are dying by gunfire

A crowd in chairs listens to a man at a podium

A small crowd gathered to rally for gun safety measures at the Indiana Statehouse yesterday. Photo: Arika Herron/Axios

Safe gun storage bills won't advance this legislative session.

Why it matters: Firearms are the leading cause of death for American children and teens.

The big picture: Gun safety advocates have framed safe storage measures as something that everyone should support, regardless of their views on other (more divisive) gun control issues.

  • The goal is to keep guns out of the hands of kids and teens and reduce the number of young people dying — particularly by suicide and in unintentional shootings.
  • Indiana had the fourth-highest number of unintentional shootings involving children in the nation last year, according to gun safety advocacy organization Everytown.

Driving the news: Two safe storage bills didn't get a hearing before Tuesday's deadline for them to advance.

  • One bill would have provided a tax credit for safe storage expenses — a gun safe, lockbox, gun lock, etc.
  • Another would have established criminal penalties for gun owners who fail to secure firearms that get used by children to kill or injure.

Between the lines: The tax credit bill was probably never going to pass, since it's a non-budget year, and it would cost the state an estimated $2.4 million annually.

  • Lawmakers will sometimes propose a bill without an intention to move it, hoping to get a hearing and begin consideration of an issue expected to take time to pass.
  • Yes, but: For that to be effective, the bill needs to at least get a hearing. Even that didn't happen.

What they're saying: "We hear a lot of talk about freedom," said Rep. Mitch Gore (D-Indianapolis), who authored the bill to hold gun owners accountable when children get ahold of them.

  • "What about the freedom from violence? What about the freedom for our children to not discover guns in their homes and cars?"

Flashback: Gore's proposal isn't new at the Statehouse.

  • Similar language was offered as an amendment to the permitless carry legislation passed in 2022 but the Republican supermajority struck the amendment on procedural grounds without a vote, according to the Indiana Capital Chronicle.

The latest: Activists from Moms Demand Action and Students Demand Action were joined by state and local officeholders at the Statehouse on Tuesday, vowing to continue advocating for gun safety legislation.

  • "I hope we can all agree that how we store our guns is at least as important as how we store our library books," said Deb Whitfield, newly elected mayor of Lawrence.

What's next: The Marion County Commission on Youth is giving away free gun lock boxes next week.

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