No responsible gun owner would object to the basic premise that guns should be stored in a way designed to ensure that nobody who shouldn’t have access to the guns will have it.
The National Rifle Association, no fan of restrictions on gun owners, emphasizes safe handling and storage of firearms. One of the NRA’s gun safety rules puts it this way: “Store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.”
This is basically the ostensible purpose behind a ballot measure that Oregonians could vote on in November 2020 if supporters gather sufficient signatures.
But that measure, No. 40, also includes some provisions that seem intended more to discourage people from owning guns at all, rather than to prompt them to safely store their firearms.
Section 1 of the measure requires gun owners to “secure” all firearms, or face potential fines.
The measure defines a “secure” gun as one with an engaged trigger lock or cable lock, or that is stored in a “locked container, equipped with a tamper-resistant lock.”
The measure also calls for the Oregon Health Authority to adopt temporary rules by Jan. 1, 2021, setting minimum specifications for those locks and containers, and to adopt permanent rules for those specifications by July 1, 2021.
Using locks, or locked containers, is a legitimate, and common, way for gun owners to secure their firearms.
But the measure would also impose on gun owners a much more stringent, and potentially unrealistic, legal standard.
It reads in part: “... a firearm is not secured if a key, combination or other means of opening a lock or container is readily available to a person the owner or possessor has not authorized to carry or control the firearm.”
The key phrases in the preceding sentence are “or other means” and “readily available.”
If we’re going to require gun owners to secure guns with locks, it’s sensible to also ensure that they keep track of the keys, or combinations, that open those locks.
But mandating, at penalty of law, that gun owners also ensure that nobody can have “other means” to access a locked gun is such a broad requirement that in effect it means if anybody gets your gun, by any means, it’s your fault, legally speaking.
What if the “other means” is a pair of bolt cutters, an item that’s “readily available” at any hardware store?
The measure also states that “space within a vehicle” does not qualify as a container that meets the requirement for “secure” storage. This ignores the growing availability of lockable storage spaces, particularly in pickup trucks, which could be nearly as secure as a locked container inside a home.
Measure 40’s backers have good intentions, but the initiative doesn’t deserve voters’ support as written.