COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – While serving as the Mayor of Toledo, Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson said her administration handed out free gun-locking devices to local residents.
The Democratic lawmaker wants to bring those efforts back – this time across Ohio.
Hicks-Hudson and Rep. Jeffrey Crossman (D-Parma) recently introduced House Bill 661, which would require federally licensed firearm vendors to attach a trigger lock to every gun sold in their stores, a device that blocks the trigger and aims to prevent accidental discharge or a firearm ending up in the wrong hands.
“What this bill is designed to do is to make it safer for people who choose to have guns in their home, but to have them stored in such a manner that they’re not subject to someone who doesn’t know anything about guns getting their hands on them and using them,” Hicks-Hudson said.
Trigger locks come in a variety of forms, whether it be a cable inserted through the barrel of a gun or a cylindrical device that blocks the trigger, making the gun inoperable unless opened with a key, Doug Vance, president of the Columbus-based gun shop Vance Outdoors, said.
“Basically (the cable lock) goes in from both sides of the trigger guard and connects itself and locks into place, basically making it so you can’t reach the trigger,” he said.
While it’s unclear how many gun retailers in Ohio provide trigger locks with each firearm sale, Vance Outdoors includes a cable lock with each purchase. Bought on their own, Vance said trigger locks cost only a couple bucks.
An average of 126 Ohioans between the ages of 10 and 24 die of suicide by firearm each year, according to the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control.
On a national level, more than 3,100 people within that age group die by firearm suicide annually – and 80% of those deaths of kids under 18 involved a gun belonging to a family member, the CDC found.
Increased availability and access to trigger locks, Hicks-Hudson said, could prevent someone who grabbed a gun in a rash moment or state of anger from causing permanent harm.
“If you have to go through the steps to unlock it, maybe that gives someone enough time that we don’t end up with so many deaths,” she said.
But Chris Dorr, executive director of Ohio Gun Owners, said trigger locks thwart a gun owner’s attempts to quickly use the firearm in life-or-death situations – and often end up in the garbage.
“Most gun owners like me throw them right in the trash if they’re included with a new firearm because we own our firearms in order to have quick access to them in case we’re ever forced to use them,” Dorr said.
Not only could trigger locks circumvent a person’s attempts to defend themselves or others, but Dorr said HB 661 infringes upon the rights of private businesses.
Requiring firearm vendors to provide a trigger lock with the sale of each gun is a slippery slope, Dorr said, to government authorities exercising control over private corporations in the U.S.
“Once we open that door, you know, to mandating what businesses can and can’t sell, where does that end?” Dorr said.
While a gun owner may opt for other storage, like a safe or gun cabinet, depending on what the firearm is being used for, Vance said cable locks can render themselves handy for some Ohioans.
“If you’re just storing them and it’s not your primary home protection, the cable lock is awesome, you know, because again, even if you have a child or somebody that gets to it, they can’t manipulate the firearm,” Vance said.
Hicks-Hudson acknowledged that some gun owners may simply toss out a trigger lock. But, she said any effort to encourage Ohioans to safely store their firearms – and possibly prevent further tragedy along the way – is worth a try.
“We’ve got to do something to prevent guns getting into the hands of those who should not have them, and we need to stop allowing the rhetoric of Second Amendment to interfere with the First Amendment, which is your right to life and liberty.”