Capitol Comments: Passing useless gun bills doesn’t fix anything

Published 8:45 pm Friday, May 10, 2024

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Capitol Comments by Peggy Bennett

Why is it that legislatures often pass new laws to fix some kind of problem and we end up finding out that those new laws didn’t fix the problem at all and just created new problems instead? This frustrates me greatly, and I know it does many of you too.

Peggy Bennett

Last week, House Democrats passed three new gun bills. None of these bills will fix any issues we are facing with gun misuse, but they sure will negatively affect law-abiding citizens in our state. I would like to discuss one of those bills: firearm storage requirements.

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This provision would require that a firearm which is not within a person’s direct control or reach must be stored in a gun safe or gun room unless it’s unloaded with a locking device. There are criminal penalties for failing to comply with these requirements.

So, let’s look at the impact.

I heard over and over during the floor debate that “guns are the No. 1 cause of death for children in the U.S. We must pass this bill to protect children!” This is a very misleading use of statistics, as often happens in politics.

Of course, we absolutely want to protect children! Fatal gun accidents involving children ages 0-14 are down over 90%. That’s good. I hope this trajectory continues.

The fact is that the vast majority of juvenile gun deaths are gang-related homicides. These teenage “children” buy their guns from straw purchase criminals.

This bill won’t fix that problem.

We already have a law on the books concerning gun storage and children. If existing laws already address negligent storage of firearms, why is this additional legislation necessary?

If some people already ignore these existing laws, do we think more of the same will help?

The topic of suicide also came up in the floor discussion. This is a tragic and significant issue. My heart goes out to families who have been impacted by the death of a loved one in this way.

I question the effectiveness of one-size-fits-all firearm storage legislation like this. Examine the top three countries with the highest suicide rates in the world. All three have some of the toughest gun laws ever. In Japan, one of these countries, suicide by hanging is sadly the most prevalent.

Tragically, those who are in the midst of a mental health crisis and intent upon death by suicide will do so with whatever means is available. We should absolutely focus on legislation that addresses mental illness in our state, but let’s be effective.

This gun storage proposal imposes new felony charges against peaceable citizens. The strict liability imposed can lead to harsh outcomes for law-abiding gun owners, even when no harm is done, or criminal intent is absent. The bill’s one-size-fits-all approach does not consider individual circumstances or context, applying the same standards to various environments, treating rural farms the same as metro day care providers.

This bill makes it difficult for me, as a single woman, to have a firearm in my own home for my protection. I have no children or at-risk persons living in my home. Under this law, if I want to keep a loaded handgun by my bedside at night it must always be within my physical reach. I can’t even leave my bed in the middle of the night to use the bathroom or I’m out of compliance and a potential criminal. If I keep my handgun locked up or unloaded with a trigger lock at night (as the bill calls for), I can no longer protect myself if a burglar were to come into my home.

Perhaps we should invent “carry pajamas?”

Let’s say a woman with a permit to carry uses a carry purse as many women do. Having this extra protection is very relevant these days, especially in the metro areas with all the carjackings. She goes over to a friend’s house to enjoy an evening of dinner and movies. No children present. Under this law, she would not be able to set her purse aside with her jacket. Instead, she would have to take her gun from her purse, unload it, and attach a trigger lock. Makes no sense!

Are they purposely making it more difficult for women to protect themselves?

Under this legislation, a person could sleep outside on a park bench with a gun within their reach and that is perfectly legal. However, if a grandpa has an unloaded shotgun hanging over the fireplace and the grandchildren come over to play, that grandpa can face a gross misdemeanor with a $3000 fine and up to a year in jail.

I find it ironic that, on the same day my Democrat colleagues introduced this firearm storage bill, they also introduced a bill that would repeal the mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes involving firearms. You just can’t make this up!

This is a nonsense bill. Even law enforcement doesn’t support this legislation. How about we go after the criminals for a change and stop making it difficult for law abiding citizens to own a firearm and have it ready to protect themselves.

Peggy Bennett, R-Albert Lea is the District 23A representative.