Child Access Gun Prevention Laws

Child Access Prevention LawsAndrew J. McClurg, Child Access Prevention Laws: A Common Sense Approach to Gun Control, 18 St. Louis University Public Law Review 47-78 (1999).

Fifteen states have Child Access Prevention or “CAP” laws that make it a crime for a gun owner to store a loaded firearm in a manner in which he knows or reasonably should know a child may gain access to the weapon.

This article asserts that CAP laws are a reasonable and feasible way to reduce a variety of gun-related harms. CAP laws do not constitute “gun confiscation” or, as a newspaper editorial asserted, “a cynical attempt to cancel a constitutionally guaranteed right.”

Basically, a CAP law says to gun owners: You own a dangerous instrumentality that can be used to instantly end a human life. You must store it in a reasonably safe way. If you fail to do so and a child or other unauthorized user gains possession of it and uses it to inflict harm, you will be held responsible.

Although CAP laws are touted primarily as a means of reducing accidental shootings by children, they also can be expected to prevent some intentional third-party shootings and suicides. When guns are securely stored, they cannot be misused by unauthorized users.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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