The House, on May 31, passed an amended version of legislation that would require safe storage of a firearm.
Under House Bill 63, a firearm owner would be required to keep their firearm properly stored so that a minor or a person prohibited by law cannot access the weapon. If a person intentionally or recklessly leaves a loaded firearm where a minor or other “unauthorized person” accesses the firearm, they would be charged with unsafe storage of a firearm.
The original version of the bill retained a longstanding affirmative defense statute, which is commonly used in criminal cases. The Senate amended during April to remove the original 1994 affirmative defense clause and placed the burden on state prosecutors to prove the absence of several preventive steps a firearm owner must take to secure his or her weapon.
“I want to be clear that I disagree with the amendment to the bill. As a criminal defense lawyer, I believe that trying to ‘prove a negative’ is a very unusual requirement to place on the prosecution,” said Rep. Sean Lynn, D-Dover North, HB 63’s lead sponsor. “However, I also believe it’s critical to advance the gun safety movement. While it is not a perfect bill, this is the best option we have available and it’s important we state clearly that gun owners must be accountable for storing their firearms responsibly.
“The vast majority of people who own firearms are responsible and take every precaution with their guns. This bill is aimed at the person who does not take proper precautions with their firearm and is designed to address situations where loaded firearms are readily available for a child or prohibited person to access the weapon,” said Lynn.
Lynn noted the bill mirrors the NRA website’s Gun Safety Rules page, which includes items such as “always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use” and “store guns so they are not accessible to unauthorized persons.”
HB 63, which passed the House 23-18, heads to Gov. John Carney for his signature.