Indiana toddler video raises questions on gun storage laws

Crime

(NewsNation) — A shocking video showing a toddler in Indiana pointing a loaded gun at neighbors has reignited debates around child access prevention (CAP) laws and safe firearm storage rules, which differ from state to state.

In a recent episode of “On Patrol: Live,” police in Beech Grove, Indiana recovered a loaded gun from a desk after a neighbor’s security camera showed an unaccompanied toddler playing with the weapon in the hallway of an apartment complex.

There’s no law in Indiana that requires unattended firearms to be stored in a certain way, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Nobody was injured in the Beech Grove incident and the gun wasn’t fired but data suggests more tragic outcomes are common.

In 2022, there were at least 301 unintentional shootings by children, resulting in 133 deaths and 180 injuries nationally, according to Everytown for Gun Safety — a nonprofit that advocates for gun control.

A separate 2018 study found that 4.6 million minors, approximately 7% of U.S. children, live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.

Anti-gun violence advocates say gun ownership and responsible storage should go hand-in-hand.

“We have an underlying belief in this country that in order to possess a gun, you need to be responsible with that gun and leaving guns unattended so that they’re accessible by others, including thieves and minors, is just simply not responsible,” said Allison Anderman, senior counsel and the director of local policy for the Giffords Law Center.

According to the organization, 23 states and Washington, D.C., have CAP or safe storage laws intended to keep firearms out of the hands of children.

Many of those states hold adults criminally liable when their guns do fall into the wrong hands, although the specific statutes vary widely.

In California, Minnesota and Nevada, adults are criminally liabile when a child may, or is likely to, gain access to a firearm that’s been stored improperly.

In other states, including Texas, Maryland and Delaware, a child has to actually gain access to an improperly stored gun in order for the law to apply.

And there are nine states where criminal liability doesn’t apply until a child uses or carries the firearm, according to Giffords.

Anderman said CAP laws have been shown to protect children.

“There have been numerous studies over the past 20 years that have found that these laws can reduce suicides and unintentional gun deaths and injuries among children and teens by up to 54%,” she said.

One study published in JAMA found states with laws that hold gun owners accountable when children access unsecured guns saw an 11% decrease in firearm suicide rates among adolescents aged 14 to 17.

Five states require gun owners to keep unattended guns stored in specific ways. In Massachusetts, for example, all firearms must be stored with a locking device when not in use or under the owner’s immediate control.

There are no federal CAP or safe storage laws but recent research suggests such laws have broad public support among gun owners and non-gun owners alike.

About 83% of non-gun owners and 63% of gun owners support safe storage laws, according to researchers at the Ohio State University.

Groups such as the National Rifle Association have argued that safe storage laws can reduce reaction times in emergency situations.

“Being forced to fumble with a lock and key in a self-defense situation could mean the difference between life and death,” the organization wrote in 2018.

Instead, the organization said that the way to keep kids safe is to educate them about the safe use of firearms.

In Indiana, the Beech Grove toddler’s father was still arrested, storage law or not. Shane Osborne, 45, is accused of felony child neglect. If convicted, he could face up to two and a half years in jail.

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