Gov. Matt Bevin said last week that he thinks parents should be responsible for locking up guns when they have children in the house, but he wouldn’t say whether he thinks that should be mandated by law.
Bevin made the comments to reporters after a meeting of the Federal School Safety Commission — a group of federal officials tasked with coming up with safety recommendations after a string of school shootings earlier this year.
“That’s a responsibility of parents, it shouldn’t even have to be a conversation piece,” Bevin, a Republican, said of locking up guns when children are in the house.
“Parents should understand this, of course parents have an obligation. And it think parents should be held accountable in large measure for ensuring that their children are safe and are not in a position to harm themselves or others because of the parents’ negligence.”
In the wake of the Marshall County High School shooting that killed two students, Bevin has blamed shootings on violent video games, music and television, as well as overuse of cellphones and over-medicating children.
But the comments made to reporters last week about locking up guns are the first from Bevin suggesting that gun owners need to be held responsible if their firearms get into the wrong hands.
At the same time, Bevin wouldn’t say that he would support a bill that would create penalties for parents who leave their guns unsecured when they have kids in the house.
“Parents have a responsibility, no question about it. Parents should be held responsible for ensuring the safety of their kids and what their kids do due to a parents’ negligence, no question,” Bevin said.
“Specifically, should there be a law? That’s a broad, broad question without an easy answer.”
Police say 15-year-old Gabriel Parker took his step-father’s pistol from a closet at home and opened fire in a commons area at Marshall County High School in January, killing two sophomores and wounding several others.
The tragedy spurred state lawmakers to sponsor a range of shooting-related bills — ranging from a proposal to arm teachers to a directive for schools to hire more mental health counselors.
One proposal that never got a hearing was Louisville Democratic Sen. Gerald Neal’s bill that would make it a misdemeanor for parents to leave their guns unsecured in the house if children are around.
Neal has already prefiled the legislation again ahead of the 2019 legislative session.
“If you leave something out for someone that’s either irresponsible or not cognizant of their responsibility, then you’re inviting tragedy and we’ve seen it over and over again across the United States and even in our community,” Neal said.
The legislature didn’t pass school safety or gun-related measures this year, but did approve a policy that encourages law enforcement to rehire retirees to serve as school resource officers.
According to the Giffords Law Center, 14 states and the District of Columbia have laws that impose criminal liability on people who don’t lock up firearms where a child could access them.
Kentucky’s child access law prohibits adults from giving handguns to minors unless they are the parent or guardian of the child — it doesn’t deal with gun storage.