With the news that the 7th-grade shooter at Sparks Middle School may have obtained the Ruger 9mm handgun he used from his parents, there is surely to be a renewed discussion about the responsibility gun owners have to secure their firearms. This is a lesson that Republican Representative from North Carolina Renee Ellmers learned the hard way, when an AR-15 was stolen from her garage. According to The News & Observer, Ellmers’s family had gone “target shooting,” but when they returned home did not properly secure the rifle. It was left leaning up against a gun safe in their unlocked garage. Ellmers was in Washington, D.C. when the rifle was stolen.
According to Thomas Doheny, Ellmers’s communications director, “several items were stolen” from the home but claimed he could not disclose further information. In North Carolina, there is no law that mandates gun owners secure their weapons, save for when a minor takes a weapon and discharges it unlawfully. Nevada does not have one of these Child Access Prevention laws also called CAP laws, which is why it remains unclear if the Sparks Middle School shooter’s parents will be charged with a crime.
According to a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research from September 2005, found “that CAP laws substantially reduce non-fatal gun injuries among both children and adults.” According to SmartGunLaws.org, a study by the Secret Service and Department of Education determined “that in more than 65% of [school shooting] cases [from 1974-200], the attacker got the gun from his or her own home or that of a relative.”
Thus far, the federal government has left CAP laws up to individual state regulation, with no plans for a federal version of the law. For Ellmers, while politically embarrassing, her family will not face legal trouble if the stolen firearm is used in a crime. The question remains however, if her story is an example of why everyone should secure their firearms at all times or if it is further proof that even our own homes are not safe from unlawful intrusion.