A new Delaware law requires gun owners to store firearms safely so they are kept out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Gov. John Carney signed the bill on Thursday.
The existing provision against “unlawfully permitting a child access to a firearm” has been expanded to cover “unsafe storage of a firearm,” in order to emphasize the importance of broader gun safety, WBOC reported. Under the law, proper gun storage can consist of putting the weapon in a lock box, engaging a trigger lock or leaving the weapon in a place where a “reasonable person” would believe it to be secure.
“This legislation will help make sure that guns in Delaware are properly stored. Gun violence has devastated too many communities and families in Delaware and across our country,” Carney told HuffPost in a statement. “We should continue to act ― to protect our communities from this threat.”
The Democratic governor has been a consistent proponent of gun safety measures. He signed the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act last year, which restricts firearm access for those who present a danger to themselves or others due to mental illness. He has also signed a bump stock ban and started a fund for Delaware schools to update safety plans and increase security.
The newly revised law makes it a Class B misdemeanor for a person to “intentionally or recklessly” store a loaded firearm in a way that allows a child or other person previously prohibited from gun possession to obtain the weapon. Those other people include individuals barred from gun ownership due to a felony conviction, a mental illness that endangers themselves or others, or a court order.
If the unauthorized person uses the firearm to commit a crime, gives it to someone else, or seriously injures or kills someone, the unsafe-storage charge rises to a Class A misdemeanor. However, the law does not apply if the firearm is stolen through unlawful entry.
Improper gun storage poses a serious threat to children around the country. Firearm-related injuries are in the top three causes of death for children in the United States, according to a study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics earlier this year.
Shootings involving young children are usually accidental, so the ease with which firearms can be accessed is especially critical for them, the study said. But storing firearms loaded and unlocked can lead to higher rates of unintentional death among adults as well as children.
The Delaware legislation’s lead sponsor, state Rep. Sean Lynn (D), said he sees the law as an important step toward improving gun safety ― although he was critical of an amendment to the original version.
That amendment puts the burden of proving negligence on the state. Lynn disagreed with the change, calling it a “very unusual requirement to place on the prosecution,” based on his experience as a criminal defense lawyer.
“While it is not a perfect bill, this is the best option we have available and it’s important we state clearly that gun owners must be accountable for storing their firearms responsibly,” Lynn said in a press release.