GUILFORD, CT — On Friday, the day before Ethan Song would have turned 16, his parents were joined by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, state Rep. Sean Scanlon, D-Guilford, and dozens of supporters to announce new federal safe gun storage legislation.
The legislation, proposed by both Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, would create federal requirements for safe gun storage, strong penalties for any violations, and incentives for states to pass their own safe gun storage laws.
Blumenthal said the only difference between the two bills is some language in the federal legislation involving grants and forfeiture issues.
He added that he believes the Connecticut legislation “could become a model” for the rest of the states in the country to follow.
Ethan Song, 15, died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at his friend’s house on Jan. 31 of 2018. He accidentally shot himself in the head, the Waterbury state’s attorney’s office said after concluding its investigation.
A juvenile friend of Ethan was charged with second-degree manslaughter in the death.
After investigating the shooting, Waterbury State’s Attorney Maureen Platt did not bring charges against Daniel Markle, owner of the gun Ethan used to shoot himself.
“Mr. Song’s death was a tragic event in that he accidentally shot himself in the head with a .357 magnum handgun which was stored in a master bedroom closet at the location where he was shot,” Platt said in her report.
The boys regularly had played with three guns kept in a closet in Song’s neighbor’s house, Platt said.
Michael and Kristin Song have become gun storage advocates since their son’s death.
Blumenthal said he is more confident than he’s ever been that legislation proposing tougher gun laws will finally make it through Congress.
“Gun violence prevention won last November,” Blumenthal said, referring to the fact that many Democratic candidates, specifically in the House of Representatives, won their elections on the issue of pushing stronger gun control measures.
He referred to deaths from guns not properly stored in homes as “tragic, needless and senseless.”
He and Jeremy Stein, executive director of the Connecticut Against Gun Violence, said they don’t believe safe gun storage is a difficult issue for gun owners or the National Rifle Association (NRA) to get behind.
Stein, holding an NRA brochure, noted that there is even a section in the NRA handbook devoted to safe storage.
“If you have strict gun laws and storage laws,” Stein said, “you can halve the number of shootings in the country.”
“Join us, don’t oppose us,” Blumenthal implored the NRA, to loud applause from the gathered throng in front of Guilford Town Hall.
The largest Second Amendment organization in Connecticut is not necessarily opposed to the legislation.
“No matter what a person’s position is on guns or the 2nd Amendment, we all obviously agree we want children safe and protected,” Connecticut Citizens Defense League President Scott Wilson said.
But, Wilson added: “Law abiding gun owners still need to have the ability to retrieve a firearm in the event of a home invasion or other warranted events to defend family members from harm without fear of prosecution.”
Wilson said they are willing to work with proponents of the bill on language to “protect children and legal gun owners.”
However, “right now, we are hoping to fix some of the language of the bill,” Wilson said.
But proponents don’t see any problems with the language.
“This legislation is a win-win,” Kristin Song, Ethan’s mom, told the crowd of supporters gathered at a press conference. “We all have the same goal — to keep are loved ones safe.”
Song said since her son’s death when meeting someone new who has heard about what happened to Ethan, they always say: “I can’t even imagine.”
“More Americans have died from gun violence than in all the wars in American history,” Song said. She said the fact that her son and his friend had been regularly playing with the guns before Ethan shot himself meant it was “just a matter of time” before tragedy struck.
Markle, owner of the house at 104 Seaside Ave. where Ethan was shot, kept three weapons in a cardboard box inside a large Tupperware container in the master bedroom closet, according to the report. Each gun was secured with a gun lock, the report said.
“In this case, there is no evidence that the gun owner knew that the juvenile had actual knowledge of where the guns were stored,” Platt wrote.
Kristin and Michael Song have sued Markle and his business, Markle Investigations, claiming that Markle had failed to “properly store, keep and/or secure a gun on the premises when he knew or should have known that minors might gain access to the gun” and that he permitted unaccompanied minors on the premises, according to the Songs’ complaint.
Scanlon’s bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Christine Cohen, D- Guilford, would allow prosecutors to charge the owner of a gun that isn’t properly stored.
Connecticut’s safe storage law only requires that loaded firearms be properly stored “if a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the parent or guardian of the minor.”