A Tucson legislator wants to charge parents with a felony if their kid uses their gun to kill or injure someone.
Rep. Victoria Steele said parents should be held liable for leaving guns where they can fall into the hands of children.
“We’ve seen too many children get hold of guns and hurt themselves or hurt somebody else,” Steele said. “I think parents and people who have guns should be responsible gun owners. … To me, this is a no-brainer. This is responsible parenting.”
Steele, a Democrat, is sponsoring a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to store a gun where a child has easy access to it and a felony if the gun is used to injure or kill someone.
People who store their guns in lockboxes or have their guns stolen from them would be exempt from prosecution.
Gun-rights advocates say the law would impose undue punishment on parents.
“It would potentially victimize someone who is already a victim,” said Todd Rathner, a lobbyist for the Arizona State Rifle and Pistol Association and a National Rifle Association board member, in an email. “If, God forbid, a child obtains a parent’s gun and kills themselves, then the parent not only loses a child but is now charged with a felony.”
Rathner said the law’s redundant, since plenty of laws already exist that deal with negligence.
“If a person negligently makes a firearm available to a child, they are already subject to criminal prosecution,” Rathner said. “Given the logic of this proposal, should we also consider a special felony charge for a person whose child steals their car keys, takes the car and injures someone?”
Steele believes gun-rights supporters have no cogent reason to oppose the bill.
“The NRA should be able to get behind this, because what I’m talking about is responsible gun ownership,” Steele said. “Who wants to let a kid get access to a loaded gun? I don’t think this is unreasonable, and I don’t think it’s an unreasonable expectation (that) the NRA can get behind this.”
Steele wasn’t optimistic about the bill’s chances of passing because she believes many of her colleagues lack the courage to stand up to the gun lobby.
“Given our Legislature, I’d be surprised if it actually gets a hearing,” she said.
On that point, Rathner concurs with Steele.
“There are a lot of anti-gun-owner bills in Arizona this session, and I doubt any will see the light of day,” he said.