NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Disarming Those In Peril

September 22, 2000

Gun-lock laws do not reduce accidental shootings, experts assert, but they do effectively disarm many victims of violent crimes at the moment when they need the help of firearms most. They say mandating gun locks is more likely to cost lives than to save them.

Advocates of gun-lock laws argue the locks are necessary to protect children. But children are much less likely to be victims than are adults being attacked who are unable to defend themselves because of delays due to locks or requirements that all guns must be stored unloaded.

  • With almost 35 million children under the age of 10 in the U.S., just 48 died in 1997 from all accidental gun shots -- including five from handguns.
  • Experts observe that with over 80 million adults owning at least one gun, the overwhelming majority of gun owners must be extremely careful, or the figures would be much higher.
  • Recent research examining juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides for all the states from 1977 to 1996 found that safe storage laws had no impact on either type of death.
  • However, the 15 states that adopted safe storage laws faced an increase of over 300 more murders and 3,860 more rapes per year relative to other states -- and burglaries also increased dramatically.

In an effort to promote gun lock legislation in Maryland earlier this year, Gov. Parris Glendening held a press conference to demonstrate the ease with which gun locks could be used. Trouble was he couldn't get the lock off the gun and ended up having to get several police officers to assist him.

Source: John R. Lott Jr. (Yale University Law School), "Unsafe Gun Laws: Reducing Access to Guns Makes People Sitting Prey," Investor's Business Daily, September 22, 2000.


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