DETROIT – U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, who represents the district where a 15-year-old is accused of killing four students at Oxford High School and wounding seven other people, said Wednesday she will propose a law requiring firearms to be safely stored and kept out of the hands of children.
The legislation, if it were to pass, would call for gun owners who do not properly secure their weapons to face up to five years in prison if a child gets a gun and injures themselves or others, or uses it in the commission of a crime.
“Everyone’s priority is to keep our kids safe, and it’s clear there’s a gap in law that makes it hard to hold parents accountable for aiding their child in committing a crime with a gun,” said Slotkin, D-Holly.
Earlier attempts to pass similar legislation have failed, however, and Slotkin’s bill would face difficulties with the Senate evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans even if it were to pass in the U.S. House.
Constitutional questions have also been raised about the legitimacy of gun storage requirements under the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
Slotkin didn’t say when she would introduce the legislation and her office didn’t immediately provide the written text of the proposal.
Ethan Crumbley, 15, has been charged with four counts of first-degree murder and terrorism following the shooting at Oxford High School on Nov. 30. Prosecutors and law enforcement say he used a semiautomatic pistol purchased by his father three days before the shooting. His parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, in part, for failing to secure the gun.
Michigan, however, has no law requiring firearms to be secured, even from children, and while some states and municipalities do have such laws, there is no federal law requiring firearms to be stored or locked away from children, either.
While the U.S. Supreme Court has, to date, allowed those local and state laws to stand, gun rights advocates have argued those rules are in conflict with a 2008 ruling that declared the District of Columbia could not require legally owned firearms to be locked or disassembled inside a person’s home. The court found that such a requirement could potentially defeat the right of the gun owner to use the firearm for self-defense.
In 2015, when the court declined to take up a challenge to San Francisco’s requirement that firearms be locked or safely stored, Justices Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia argued that it was a mistake to do so because they considered the rule in conflict with the earlier decision. With a 6-3 conservative split on the court now, it’s far from clear that, if a challenge to a federal law requiring safe storage were mounted, it would be rejected by the court.
Advocates of safe storage have argued that the 2008 decision shouldn’t bar those rules because they apply only to circumstances when the firearm is out of the control of the gun owner and potentially accessible to a child, not when the gun owner is in control of the firearm.