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Texas’ Proposed Safe Storage Regulations Are Rife with Unintended Consequences

By: José Niño

Following the Santa Fe, Texas school shooting, in which a 17-year-old student killed eight classmates and two teachers, Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott convened a series of closed-door, roundtable discussions on gun control and school safety.

While Abbott claimed that all sides needed to be heard in these discussions, he curiously did not invite reliably pro-gun groups, such as Texas Gun Rights. Instead, Abbott included established gun control groups, among them, Texas Gun Sense. The “pro-gun” side of the discussion consisted of Republicans with spotty records on gun rights, including Joan Huffman and Phil King.

The initial result of these discussions appears to be Abbott floating the idea of safe storage regulations to try to prevent further shootings and voicing support for “shortening the time period to report a mental health court judgment,” The Texas Tribune reported.

Republican Legislatures Compromise on Gun Control
Texas is a microcosm of sorts of a national phenomenon. With rabidly anti-gun groups mounting pressure nationwide, “pro-gun” Republicans are capitulating left and right in an attempt to appear reasonable on the issue of gun control. This trend all started earlier this year during the aftermath of the Parkland, Florida school shooting, when Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed into law the largest gun control package in recent Florida history.

To add insult to injury, 67 Republicans with A ratings from the NRA voted to ram this gun control package through the Florida legislature. Now, gun controllers smell blood in the water and are looking to make an example of another red state. And Texas may be the next state to fall to the anti-gun pressure.

To tackle the issue of school safety head-on, various politicians are urging Abbott to call a special session of the Texas State Legislature.

Per the Texas Constitution, Abbott has the authority to call a special session of the State Legislature to address issues deemed to be pressing. Special sessions last for 30 days, and the governor can call as many as he sees fit.

For a state that markets itself as pro-gun, Texas should not even consider safe storage laws as a solution to mass shootings. Not only are these regulations unacceptable from a Second Amendment standpoint, but they are laced with a myriad of unintended consequences.

Safe Storage Laws: Unintended Consequences Galore
Capitalizing on the nation’s hysteria, the gun control lobby is quick to call for the passage of safe storage laws, claiming these laws would reduce accidental gun deaths and prevent deranged teenagers from committing atrocities like the most recent one in Texas.

Freedom-lovers should, however, always be dubious of any proclaimed advantage to increasing state power. Like any type of government intervention, safe storage laws come with unintended consequences that many people overlook.

In a 2001 study, Safe-Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime,
researchers John Lott and John E. Whitley revealed several shocking data points regarding the implementation of safe-storage laws in 15 states from 1996 to 2001:

“The only consistent impact of safe-storage laws is to raise rape, robbery, and burglary rates, and the effects are very large. Our most conservative estimates show that safe-storage laws resulted in 3,738 more rapes, 21,000 more robberies, and 49,733 more burglaries annually in just the 15 states with these laws. More realistic estimates indicate across-the-board increases in violent and property crimes. During the 5 full years after the passage of the safe-storage laws, the 15 states faced an annual average increase of 309 more murders, 3,860 more rapes, 24,650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults.”

In this same study, Lott and Whitley also found that safe-storage laws produced no noticeable change in accidental death or suicide rates.

It makes sense, of course, that criminals intent on breaking the law don’t care about complying with existing gun laws, whereas their potential victims are much more likely to comply with gun control regulations.

In any potential encounter with a criminal, every second counts. Safe-storage laws stifle citizens’ abilities to defend their homes and loved ones in the face of criminal threats. In short, safe-storage laws turn law-abiding families’ homes into criminal safe zones.

Lott and Whitley conclude their study with the following observation:

“The impact of safe-storage laws is consistent with existing research indicating that the guns that are most likely to be used in an accidental shooting are owned by the least law- abiding citizens and thus are least likely to be locked up after the passage of the law. The safe-storage laws thus manage to produce no significant change in accidental deaths or suicides and yet still raise crime rates because households with low accidental death risks are now the ones most likely to obey the law.”

If Texas wants safe neighborhoods and schools, policymakers should continue pursuing the same policies that have played a significant role in lowering crime rates throughout the United States: expanding gun rights.

Policies that allow market-based solutions to security also have their place in these discussions, but calls for more gun control completely miss the mark.
When 98 percent of school shootings take place in gun-free zones, it becomes abundantly clear that further gun control attempts are exercises in futility. Short-sighted political action and good intentions just won’t cut it when dealing with sensitive subjects like school safety.

Texas can lead the way in school safety by actually giving the Second Amendment a chance and leaving gun control in the ashbin of history.

José Niño is a Venezuelan-American political activist based in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Gunpowder Magazine.