OPINION: The forgotten issue behind gun violence: gun storage


Milan Varia

Issues like gun storage bear a lot of responsibility in our world today. It has become a major problem and needs to be addressed in some capacity.

Opinions expressed in the Op/Ed section of The Knight Crier are not necessarily reflective of the views of the entire staff of the KC.

In an announcement on December 3rd, 2021, Oakland County attorney Karen McDonald, the lead prosecutor on the Oxford Shooting trial, said that the actions of the parents were “egregious,” “criminal,” and “unconscionable.” That same day was the day the parents of the alleged shooter were charged with involuntary manslaughter charges.

It is said that the parents of the alleged shooter bought a 9mm Sig Saur SP2022 on Black Friday and did not do anything to keep the gun secure.

“[The parents] did not indicate to school officials, or to their son, and inquire about the whereabouts of the gun, or the existence of the gun, to my knowledge,” McDonald told media during her public press conference.

As a current high school student who has seen media filled with stories like this, I sometimes get frightened. There are times where I worry or I think something may happen. I worry for my classmates and teachers. It is a serious issue, and it feels like I see school shootings occur so often. I want a change, a feeling of safety, so that my peers, future students, and I can all navigate the waters of schooling without worry.

Arguments related to deeply saddening situations like these often lead to a clash of ideas. Some view keeping guns as their right; others feel as if guns should not be owned at all. Despite that, McDonald’s comments bring into light a new lens to the argument of the second amendment. Throughout the polarizing discourse of gun violence, her remarks shine a light on the issue of gun storage, specifically pertaining to safe storage from those under the age of eighteen years old.

As it currently stands, twenty-seven states and the District of Columbia have passed the Child Access Prevention Laws– the only problem with this is that it is not a universal set of rules. Every state has different criteria for what is considered proper storage, as well as what is punishable by law. In eleven of the twenty-seven states, gun owners have to be intentionally storing firearms recklessly to be charged criminally. There are two problems with that. One, how does the court of law accurately maintain this law? How does it define reckless storage? It is an unclear line that cannot be drawn easily and gives those responsible extra wiggle room to work their individual case. The second issue is more alarming though. It means there are thirty-four states where gun owners can be negligent with their gun storage and not be criminally charged.

At face value, this may not seem like the most significant of issues because negligence is not something that may need to be a criminal offense, but the issue is larger than that. In a study conducted by the US Secret Service and the US Department of Education where thirty-seven school shootings from 1974 to 2000 were examined, more than 65% of cases were a result of the shooter getting the weapon from their or a relative’s home. Since 2000, 80% of gunfire on school grounds by those 18 and under got their gun via the same method.

This is an issue. Something needs to change, and it starts directly with instilling stricter Child Access Prevention laws. If the CAP laws are put into place everywhere, an increase in safety can be expected. The majority of studies associate CAP laws with decreases in unintentional deaths, homicides, and suicides, and this is even more so clear in the most recent one. In 2018, the National Bureau of Economic Research published a paper finding that CAP laws led to a 19% decrease in firearm-related homicides caused by those under 18-years-old. In 2020, a separate study found that CAP laws led to a 15% decrease in homicides, a 12% decrease in suicides, and a 13% decrease in accidental deaths. Any decrease in the climate where children are constantly worried about their safety at school is one worth consideration.

Despite all of this, Johns Hopkins University’s School of Public Health found that 54% of gun owners did not safely store their firearms. This is an obvious problem. The implementation of strict CAP laws everywhere, with inspection, can lead to more improved gun storage and responsible ownership throughout the nation. As a reminder, 80% of gunfire on school grounds by those 18 and under was caused by negligent storage of arms. 80% should be an alarming number, but more importantly, it should be a number that is is seen as fixable. Idleness is not the answer to issues like this, action is.

The safety of students and future students is always in question, and I want to reiterate that students walk into school scared every day. In December, North Penn parents received an email that warned them of a disturbing trend on Tiktok promoting the idea of school shootings. Emails like that are the disappointing reality of many families nationwide with fears of school shootings, and once we can accept that, I hope a change can become realized.