ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Gun violence surpassed motor vehicles as the number one cause of death for children and youth in 2020 in both the state of Maryland and the United States at large. While there are many factors that contribute to this reality, one critical component is the ease in which children can gain access to firearms within their homes and the homes of friends and family.
More than 46% of America’s children live in households with unsecured firearms.1 And in recent Secret Service analysis, around ¾ of school shooters obtained their firearm from the home of a parent or close relative. Years of research indicates that strong storage laws can have a significant impact in reducing the likelihood of youth accessing firearms. The impact of these strong laws will be in reducing unintentional deaths and injuries, occurrences where youth bring guns to school, and the ease in which guns can be stolen.
On March 20, 2018, a 17-year-old student gained access to his father’s gun, entered Great Mills High School in southern Maryland and shot and killed 16-year-old Jaelynn Willey and injured a 14-year-old boy. A strong Child Access Prevention law can help reduce unintentional shootings and youth suicides as well as incidents where a youth in crisis impulsively acts to harm others. In honor of her tragic loss and aiming to save others, Maryland’s Child Access Prevention bill has been designated “Jaelynn’s Law.”
Delegate Sandy Bartlett’s HB307(and Senator Will Smith’s SB858) seeks to do the following to Maryland’s existing Child Access Prevention law:
- Raise the age of protection to include 16 and 17 year olds;
- Articulate the parameters of safe gun storage: unloaded and secure;
- Eliminate the civil liability prohibitor; and
- Create public education materials on reduction of youth suicide and safe gun storage.
Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence’s executive director, Karen Herren, will testify on the bill.
1 Deborah Azrael, Joanna Cohen, Carmel Salhi, and Matthew Miller, “Firearm Storage in Gun–owning Households with Children: Results of a 2015 National Survey,” Journal of Urban Health 95, no. 3 (2018): 295–304.; Matthew Miller and Deborah Azrael, “Firearm Storage in US Households with Children: Findings from the 2021 National Firearm Survey,” JAMA Network Open 5, no. 2 (2022).
“Due to recent major spikes in gun ownership and now major spikes in the public carrying of firearms, access to guns is at unprecedented levels. Most gun owners want to be as safe as possible with their firearms but unfortunately a significant number of gun owners are not following the recommended practice of storing firearms unloaded and secured whenever they are not within their immediate control. Recent stories of children accessing unsecured firearms and killing and injuring someone as a result are beyond tragic as they both involve children and are entirely preventable with responsible behavior. Legislation around this issue is long overdue.”
Given the recent increases in gun ownership and public carrying of firearms, Maryland needs to clearly articulate what responsible gun ownership looks like and be willing and able to hold gun owners accountable when they fail to uphold those standards.
Other witnesses and supporters include:
- Melissa Willey – Mother of Jaelynn
- Rev. Greta Willis – Program director of MPGV’s Liberty Elementary Grief Support Program and founder of the Kevin L. Cooper Foundation
- Dr. Joseph Sakran – Johns Hopkins Hospital, trauma surgeon, director
- Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office (Robert Hill)
- Howard County State’s Attorney’s Office
- Maryland State Education Association
- Maryland Moms Demand Action
- Brady United Against Gun Violence
- And More
Upcoming bill hearing: Wednesday, February 15, 2023, 1pm