Responsible gun owners know they can avoid accidents by taking certain precautions, including locking their weapons away or using trigger locks when their weapons aren't being used. Last week, Los Angeles City Councilman Paul Krekorian called for a new law that would make these common-sense approaches to gun safety mandatory in the city, which strikes us as reasonable and prudent public policy.
But it might not be an easy step to take. In 2008, the Supreme Court ruled in District of Columbia et al. vs. Heller that Americans have a 2nd Amendment right to keep guns in their homes for self-protection. The ruling voided a Washington, D.C., law that, among other significant restrictions on gun ownership, required that guns be kept in "inoperable" condition, either by having them dismantled or by using trigger locks.
This year, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a case from San Francisco that a trigger lock alone "does not impose a substantial burden on conduct protected by the 2nd Amendment." It also found that a "locked-storage law serves a significant government interest by reducing the number of gun-related injuries and deaths from having an unlocked handgun in the home." The challengers to that decision have until Dec. 12 to seek certiorari from the Supreme Court — and the court may take it up just to clarify its opinion on what constitutes too onerous a burden on gun owners.
If one accepts the notion that the 2nd Amendment affords individuals the right to own a gun for self-protection, it's hard to argue that an individual can own a gun but can't have it handy and operable when it's needed. The D.C. law clearly went too far in requiring guns to be dismantled and rendered inoperable. But removing a trigger lock is not necessarily time-consuming. Some have simple three-digit combination locks that take seconds to open. It's by no means clear that that is an onerous obstruction, especially balanced against the public interest in reducing accidental deaths.
California state law already requires that handguns be sold with trigger locks. Another state law requires that guns be locked away or fitted with trigger locks if the owner knows a minor will be in the home. Krekorian's measure, which was sent to the city attorney's office for drafting, would make that common-sense requirement more sweeping. While reserving final judgment until we see the wording of the law, we encourage the council to pursue it.