Bill making gun owners liable when minors access firearms passes the House
A bill that would make it a crime to negligently store a firearm so that it’s accessible to a minor is on its way to a full House vote in the legislature. Many Republicans and gun rights advocates opposed the bill, but sponsors say they are trying to reduce youth gun violence.
House Bill 9 is known as Bennie’s Bill, named for Bennie Hargrove, who died after being shot in 2021 by a fellow classmate at Washington Middle School in Albuquerque. That student used his father’s gun.
According to the Sandy Hook Promise, 4.6 million American children live in a home with a loaded and unlocked gun, which experts have attributed to those weapons being used in school shootings.
One of the bill sponsors, Rep. Pamelya Herndon, D-Albuquerque, introduced similar legislation last session, but it was tabled over the meaning of “safe storage.”
This year, Herndon said, the sponsors amended the language so safe storage could mean a locked container or securely storing a firearm in a location a minor could not reach. The updated bill also gives the courts and district attorneys discretion to determine what is reasonable under each circumstance.
"You can have a million guns is what I always state, but the requirement is that you store them safely. Your gun, your responsibility" said Herndon.
The National Rifle Association opposes the bill arguing it would have a “chilling effect” on youth hunting and competitive shooting.
Herndon said nothing in this bill prohibits these activities or stops anyone from owning a gun. But it makes it more difficult for youth to access a firearm.
"Sometimes our youth don’t have the maturity to understand what is happening when they access a gun and they use it. There’s so much use of these video games, for example, where people die but they come back to life" Herndon said.
Penalties would range from a misdemeanor if a young person brandishes a firearm but causes no bodily harm, to a fourth degree felony if that young person causes harm or death.
The bill now moves on to the Senate.
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