Avoiding Tragedy … For Now

I couldn’t have been prouder when the New York State Assembly voted to pass Nicholas’ Law earlier this month. The bill, which I authored, would require gun owners to lock up their guns when they are not in their immediate possession or control in order to prevent unintentional shootings, suicides and gun thefts.

The bill, for me, took on even greater importance last week as reports surfaced that the two convicted murderers who escaped from the Clinton Correctional Facility had broken into a cabin and stolen several firearms. While the nightmare is over – one of the convicts is dead while the other has been captured – it could have ended much differently. These killers, who had already shown no regard for human life, demonstrated that they were willing to go to any length to secure their freedom. That they were able to steal functional firearms was frightening.

Had these guns been properly locked they would have been rendered useless. Instead, two killers were armed and are even more dangerous, posing an even greater threat to anyone they encountered.

I understand that opponents of this bill are worried about their Second Amendment Rights and whether the government should be allowed to tell them what to do with their property. This case, while extreme, is just one more example, though, of why this law is necessary. Any criminal, not just these two convicted murderers, can break into your home at any time and steal your weapon. If it’s not locked, well, we saw a perfect example last week of the consequences.

While education about the dangers of unintended access to loaded firearms is critical to preventing accidental injuries and death of children, we must also impose sanctions to hold individuals responsible when they don’t lock or store their guns when out of their possession.

Nicholas’ Law is reasonable and clear: if your gun is not on or near you, lock it up or put a lock on it. If you don’t, you’ll be held accountable with criminal penalties.

What would have happened had these criminals ended up murdering someone, perhaps even members of law enforcement, with rifles they had stolen? The person who failed to secure these weapons would be as responsible for those deaths as much as the person who pulled the trigger.

This is common sense. This is not taking away anyone’s right to own a weapon. It is merely a measure to ensure that people who own these weapons do so responsibly. That this scenario ended without any innocent victims losing their lives is just a footnote compared to the tragedy that was waiting to happen.

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