A Missouri state representative is proposing a bill that will hold an adult responsible if a child gains access to an unsecured firearm.
Stacey Newman, D-St. Louis, is sponsoring House Bill 1343, which specifies that a person commits the offense of endangering the welfare of a child if he or she knowingly fails to secure a firearm. The goal is to eliminate the cases of children accidentally shooting themselves or others after gaining access to a firearm.
“Right now in Missouri the child endangerment statute does not include firearms as a child endangerment,” Newman said. “There isn’t any statute for an attorney to hold an adult liable.”
According to the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, 124 children under the age of 18 nationwide have been shot and killed by another child, including cases of self-inflicted shootings. Throughout the entire year of 2016, 121 children were killed.
More than one-third of the total number of incidents logged this year occurred in just six states, including Missouri. There have been 16 incidents involving a child using an unsecured firearm in Missouri so far this year, compared to 10 incidents last year.
“Several years ago Missouri was No. 1 in the country in terms of toddler shootings; those are shootings where a toddler pulls the trigger,” Newman said.
The bill would apply to children under the age of 17 and carry enhanced penalties if a shooting causes serious injury or death of a child.
Newman has filed this bill for the last three years, but acknowledges the bill’s slim chance of passage, given the Republican majority in Jefferson City and what she sees as the influence of the pro-gun lobby.
The recent trend has involved loosening restrictions on firearms in Missouri, including a 2016 measure to allow most gun owners to carry a concealed weapon without a permit.
But she believes the time has come for the legislature to take action to limit the number of child shootings.
“Because of the number of incidents that happen daily in terms of gun violence, we don’t pay attention unless there is a mass shooting,” Newman said.
The 2018 legislative session begins Jan. 3.