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A teenager’s accidental death now has US lawmakers calling for a national gun storage law

Kristin Song’s 15-year-old son was killed in an accidental shooting. Now, U.S. lawmakers are working to make the safe storage legislation named after her son, Ethan, into federal law
Published: Mar. 17, 2022 at 1:54 PM EDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - On Jan. 31, 2018, Kristin Song celebrated at breakfast with her 15-year-old son, Ethan, who had just gotten his braces off. They spoke about his hopes and dreams of joining the army, one day attending Rice University, and getting married and having children. It’s a future Ethan would never see. He died later that day in an accidental shooting at a friends house.

“Within the hour I saw two police officers walking across my front lawn,” Kristin Song said, “...and when we were going into the E.R., there was a collective hush that fell over the air. They were waiting for the parents of the dead child.”

Ethan, of Guilford, Conn., accidentally shot himself. Song says it happened with an unsecured gun in the neighbor’s home. Kristin and Mike Song call Ethan’s death their ‘life sentence.’ Now, the tragedy has become their life work as they have advocated for ‘Ethan’s Law’ which requires the safe storage of guns in any place where minors may have access to the weapons. U.S. lawmakers are working to make ‘Ethan’s Law’ the law of the land by introducing federal legislation that would set a standard for all 50 states and create penalties for violations.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) is a key lawmaker working to get it passed.

“There’s a hole in their heart that never, ever will be repaired. But what they have done is to take that pain, that anguish. And again, Kristin said, she gets up every morning and it’s the pain that drives her to what she’s doing. And this is not someone who has said, well, maybe you know, this month, this week, this year I will champion the cause of gun storage. No, it’s out of her heart. It’s out of her persona. It’s out of the physical pain that she and Mike are in,” DeLauro said.

The federal legislation for ‘Ethan’s Law’ is also supported by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.). The trio of Connecticut lawmakers are leading a nine member group in Congress to introduce the bill. They claim an estimated 4.6 million American minors live in a household with at least one loaded and unlocked gun and that every day, an estimated eight children and teens are injured or killed due to an unsafely stored firearm.

“It only reinforces what I believe that the strength of the of this institution of the Congress, its strength is its potential, its potential to change and to transform lives for the better. And that’s what was going on here,” said DeLauro who said the federal legislation would make every state engage with child safety. “We’re just saying store the gun, store the ammunition. Don’t have it in a Tupperware box where youngsters can get access to it. Kids will find it.”

‘Ethan’s law’ was passed by a 127-16 vote in Connecticut and signed into that state’s law in 2019. Supporters note, several states have passed similar ‘fair’ safe storage laws. Yet Song believes all states should support ‘Ethan’s law’ as she claims it does not violate the second amendment. She believes gun owners should also support the measure because she claims storing guns will prevent them from being stolen.

“We are losing more children to gun violence than any other danger that is facing them in America. That is absolutely insane,” said Song. She describes Ethan’s Law like this, “you just need to lock your guns up if kids can access them. That’s it... this is what’s great about Ethan’s Law is it is a win-win for everybody... it protects the second amendment, but it also will save our children’s lives. So there’s there is no downside.”

In a statement, NRA spokesperson Amy Hunter, told the Washington News Bureau, “the NRA supports responsible firearm storage. As the foremost leader in firearms safety training, the NRA encourages all gun owners to safely store firearms so that they are inaccessible to unauthorized users. However, gun owners’ personal and living situations vary. That is why one-size-fits-all approaches will not work.”

Alan Rice of the group Gun Owners of America said any government mandate on guns is an infringement against the second amendment.

“The second amendment’s clear, it says, shall not be infringed. And when we get into these mandatory storage requirements, we often see across the country that if the gun owner doesn’t follow those rules to the letter, they face criminal penalties,” he said, “...their rights are being infringed because they’re being told how to store their guns and if they’re caught storing them in a manner in which the government disagrees with, they can go to jail.”

Rice said locking away weapons can also slow response time in case of an emergency. He said he believes it should be up to individual gun owners on how to store their weapons responsibly.

“What we believe is that responsible adults need to make decisions that are appropriate for their family and their households. And, what might work for a single adult living alone might be very different for a family with children of varying ages,” he said as he also encouraged gun owners to properly train themselves and their families on handling guns and self-defense. “We counsel people not to use trigger locks because they’re slow, tedious and you won’t be able to get the lock off quickly if you need the firearm. And they’re very unsafe on a loaded gun because there’s wiggle room and play, they don’t fit securely enough to prevent manipulation of the trigger. So now you have an unsafe condition that the government’s created by passing a law that says you have to lock up your gun.”

Kristin Song came to Capitol Hill the week of President Biden’s State of the Union address. She spent the next day following the speech attending a press conference with Rep. DeLauro to promote gun violence safety legislation and Ethan’s Law. DeLauro believes they will be able to get bipartisan support for the measure in Congress. It is currently waiting for a committee vote before moving to the full House. Democrats are also calling on the U.S. Senate to take action on bipartisan measures passed by the House last year to expand background checks.

“I do this fight because the intense pain that you feel that’s apparent for losing a child, for me that propels me every day to get up and fight for your children and fight for our grandchildren all over this world. And so I will never stop. You know, I will never stop until this law is passed, until we create a culture in America that it becomes second nature to store your guns. Just like it’s second nature to put your child in a car seat. Just like it’s second nature to install smoke detectors. Just like it’s second nature to put up a fence around your pool. This is absolutely no different,” she said.

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