Alabama lawmaker files bill requiring safe storage of firearms
An Alabama lawmaker has filed a bill that would require parents and guardians to secure their firearms, and subject them to felony charges if their child brings a gun to a public school.
The bill, HB 123, sponsored by Rep. Barbara Drummond, D-Mobile, would require gun owners with children to store their weapons in a way that “reasonably secures the firearm from unauthorized or unlawful access by the minor.” Parents whose children brought guns to school in violation of the law could be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Under existing law, people cannot have a gun on the property of a public school with the intent to cause harm.
“So, I want parents to be responsible and to know that, you know, if they are not accountable and responsible for securing those weapons in an appropriate manner that they will be held accountable when something happens,” Drummond said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The bill includes exceptions for minors who have guns in a hunting or firearms safety course; at a shooting range; at an organized competition; hunting or fishing with a permit; on the property of parent, guardian or grandparent; in the armed forces, or traveling to a permitted location. It does not apply to students acting in self-defense.
Drummond said that the bill was not intended to impact “responsible” gun owners who lock up their guns where children cannot access them.
Messages seeking comment were left with the National Rifle Association and Rep. Jim Hill, R-Odenville, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee.
Drummond said in a phone interview that the bill comes after guns have been found on school property in Alabama and school shootings across the country.
In January, a six-year-old in Virginia brought a gun to school and shot his first-grade teacher.
The day before Drummond spoke to the Alabama Reflector, three children and three adults were killed in a private school shooting in Nashville. The identified suspect was an adult and purchased their guns legally.
“Because, quite frankly, when you look at things like what happened on yesterday, that breaks my heart,” she said. “That breaks my heart.”
Drummond filed her bill on March 22. The same day, a student shot two school staff members in Colorado.
The Washington Post reports that there have been 376 school shootings since the Columbine shooting in 1999.
Kaiser Health News reports that guns are the leading cause for death in children in the United States. Comparable countries have seen the rates of child deaths from guns fall in recent years, while the United States’s rate has risen.
Numerous school shootings have had students as the shooters. In the high-profile 2018 Marjory Stoneman-Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, an expelled 19-year-old student killed 17. Earlier this month, a 15-year-old in Texas killed one student and injured another.
The bill, if approved, would be among the first on gun storage in Alabama. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, only 25 states and Washington, D.C. have laws around gun storage.
“The AAP supports a number of measures to reduce the destructive effects of guns in the lives of children and adolescents, including safe storage and CAP [Child Access Prevention] laws,” according to their website.
Alabama has one of the highest death rates from firearms, according to the CDC. In 2020, Alabama had 1,141 gun deaths, more than New York State, which has four times Alabama’s population
New Mexico’s legislature recently passed similar legislation.