Rep. Barbieri: Firearms Must be Stored Safely


This editorial was published in today's edition of The News Journal.


The issue of firearms and efforts to reduce gun violence is something that polarizes our society. Lawmakers have made honest efforts to do this while respecting and protecting everyone’s Second Amendment rights. With this right comes a corresponding responsibility to make sure that a person’s weapon is secured. Guns are not toys – they are lethal instruments – which is why we must prevent them from falling into the hands of a youth or a person prohibited.

I believe that this is a view that is shared by the National Rifle Association. In my conversations with NRA members, it is clear that they strongly support responsible gun ownership. It is against that backdrop that I am putting forth House Bill 168 as a way to reinforce the need for responsible gun ownership. Many of the new owners of guns, especially handguns, have not had exposure to the trainings the NRA and other groups who promote responsible behavior offer, and they are not versed on the importance of securing your weapon.

The purpose of HB 168 is to prevent those who should not have access to a firearm from getting their hands on a gun. In short, it requires those who have firearms to be “responsible gun owners.”

Currently, state law makes it a crime if a gun owner allows a minor to have access to a firearm and the minor uses it. At that point, you have three parties impacted: the gun owner, the minor who now enters the criminal justice system, and a victim. We should be working to prevent the minor from having a criminal record and to eliminate victims in the first place.

House Bill 168 changes this law to require the safe storage of a firearm. A gun owner would be required to store the firearm in a locked container or with a trigger lock, or have it hidden in a secure location. If a minor or unauthorized person – a person who is prohibited from owning or possessing a firearm – gets their hands on the weapon, the owner would face criminal charges. Instead of waiting for a shooting to occur to charge a gun owner with a crime, we want to prevent a horrible tragedy from occurring.

It has been noted in many speeches by the NRA and others that guns don’t kill people, other people kill people. I agree completely, but this also means that we have a responsibility to keep guns out of the hand of those who might not be mature enough to make good decisions or who have a history that suggests they should not possess a gun.

This bill is consistent with the tenets of the NRA and other responsible adults – that owning a gun is a Constitutional right but with that right comes our responsibility to properly secure that weapon. This is something second nature for those who are true members of any responsible gun owners group so will not be an additional burden. This legislation is designed to make new gun owners aware that being a “responsible gun owner” means not leaving it unsecured on a bedside table or in a glove compartment where a child or prohibited person can take and use it.

As responsible adults, we must be aware of our behavior and the influence this behavior has on others. I don’t want to wait until after a 10-year-old takes a gun from his or her house and shoots a playmate to recognize that we probably should have taken action to help secure weapons. Promoting safe and responsible gun ownership should be at the forefront of what we do as good citizens. It is our right and our responsibility. 

Michael Barbieri represents the 18th District in the Delaware House of Representatives.