Nassau County Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, gun safety advocates and members of the Democratic minority renewed a push for a safe gun storage ordinance in Nassau County on Monday morning, calling the proposal “common sense.”
Supporters said the legislation, initially proposed in May 2016 but never taken up by the County Legislature, would clarify what constitutes safe storage of a firearm and aims to make it more difficult for children to gain access to weapons to avert accidents and suicides.
“These tragic incidences can possibly be avoided by proper storage of guns in the home,” Birnbaum, who authored the legislation, said. “A critical component of responsible gun ownership is ensuring that firearms are stored in a manner that keeps them out of the hands of children and individuals who should not have access to them.”
Birnbaum was flanked by co-sponsors of the legislation, including Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams and Legislators Delia DeRiggi-Whitton, Arnold Drucker, Joshua Lafazan, Debra Mule and Siela Bynoe. The law also earned support from County Executive Laura Curran, a Baldwin Democrat, and local gun safety advocates like Lois Schaffer of Great Neck.
Dr. Jeffrey Oestreicher, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center, said safe storage is “the missing piece” in addressing an “epidemic.”
“We are facing an epidemic – pediatric firearm suicide is increasing at an alarming rate and four in five children use a gun found in their home,” Oestreicher said. “A safe storage bill would dramatically decrease the likelihood that kids will get their hands on a gun in this crisis moment and is a critical step to saving children’s lives.”
There are currently no Republican co-sponsors on the bill, which was filed on March 26.
Frank Moroney, a legislative spokesman for the Republican majority, did not respond to a request for comment.
A draft of the law requires that anyone who “owns, controls or is custodian of a firearm” securely lock the firearm in “an appropriate safe storage depository” or use a special safety locking device whenever it is not in their immediate possession.
Anyone found in violation could be subject to imprisonment for no more than 15 days or a $250 fine for the first offense, provided no injury is caused.
On second offense or on a first offense where there is an injury, there would be a misdemeanor charge punishable by a fine up to $1,000 or imprisonment not exceeding one year.
The law would also mandate anyone involved in selling firearms or ammunition to post notice of the law and distribute it to customers, and have the Nassau County Police Department distribute a copy of the law to pistol license applicants.
Additionally, the law requires the reporting of any lost ammunition or firearms to the Nassau County Police Department, which will maintain records of the thefts.
Anyone failing to comply with these two portions of the law would be subject to a fine up to $250 or 15 days in jail.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said that the department would work with firearm businesses and federal firearm licensees in Nassau County to ensure compliance with the law, which he said he supported.
“This is not a Second Amendment issue. This is a common sense issue,” Ryder said. “We have 27,500 pistol license holders in this county. We want to make sure all 27,500 keep those weapons safe so they don’t end up in the hands of a kid that should not have it.”
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas described the law as a tested means of reducing suicides, stopping children from mistaking guns as toys, and preventing someone who is mentally ill from gaining access to a weapon without affecting Second Amendment rights.
“It’s important to know that safe storage legislation is nothing revolutionary and nothing new,” Singas said, adding that “it’s common sense” to keep guns secure.
The renewed push for the law follows a mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14, which killed 17 people, sparking a larger debate on gun safety.