Precautionary Law vs. Self-Defense

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

In a profanity-laced screed at the Daily Beast, Cliff Schecter claims that an accidental gun death "proves the NRA wrong," specifically for opposing federal legislation requiring guns to be stored with safety locks.

The toddler's great-aunt was taking him for a ride in her car, and naturally there was a revolver in the back pouch of the seat in front of him, where he could reach it and shoot his grandmother, who was sitting in the passenger seat.

"There could be some child neglect or some unlawful conduct towards a child charges based on the age of the child and leaving the gun within reaching distance of a young minor," said Rock Hill Police Chief Mark Bollinger.

The operative phrase is "could be." If the grandmother or great-aunt had put the toddler in the back without a car seat, you can bet your ass there'd be charges. If they'd put a shot of whiskey in front of him, same deal. Or if they hadn't fed him or left him in a hot car, or perhaps, if he were five years older, just let him walk less than half a mile to a playground. [links omitted]
I beg to differ.

If indeed, the "operative phrase is 'could be,'" let me note that the case is still under investigation. Were I to make my own uneducated guess, one or both of the adults -- depending on whether the grandmother knew of the driver's carelessness with guns -- in the car could reasonably found under existing law to be guilty of child endangerment at the very least. (I could also see an argument for criminal negligence on the part of the gun owner, but I am not a lawyer.) I fail to see why a new, narrowly-applicable law is needed in this case, what good it would do, or how it wouldn't open a Pandora's Box of problems by criminalizing an ordinary act that often makes sense.

To start with, from my somewhat limited experience with the kind of people who keep guns lying around, a law like this would do little to nothing to change the carelessness on their part, while it would wrongly present a legal hazard to anyone who might, say, forget to use the safety device, and have the omission, relevant or not, uncovered in other circumstances. And if you don't believe me, consider some of the ridiculous cases Schecter cites in that paragraph. It is not a good thing that parents risk trouble with the law, including loss of custody of their own children, because precautionary laws continually trample common sense and rational individual decisions. Likewise, there must be room, under the law, for gun owners to make rational decisions -- without fear of prosecution for an accident some careless dolt "could be" responsible for, by doing something that, stripped of all context, is "the same thing."

There is nothing inherently wrong with storing a loaded gun without a safety lock. It should not be illegal to do so.

-- CAV

No comments: