WASHINGTON – Connecticut lawmakers announced Tuesday that they have introduced a federal version of “Ethan’s Law” in the House and Senate modeled after legislation nearing passage in the Connecticut to require gun owners to safely store their weapons away from children.
Mike and Kristin Song of Guilford, whose son Ethan was killed by an accidental gunshot at a neighbor’s home in 2018, retold the tragic story at a press conference outside the U.S. Capitol, where members of the Connecticut delegation were joined by other gun safety advocates to announce the introduction of the bill.
Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who is leading the House effort to pass the bill, teared up as Kristin Song spoke – telling how her 15-year old son had walked to a neighbor’s home to visit a friend where unbeknownst to her the father there kept three guns stored in a cardboard box with ammunition.
“It was only a matter of time before someone got shot. Tragically, it was my son,” she said.
The boys got hold of the weapons and a gun accidentally fired. The bullet struck Ethan fatally. At the hospital, Kristin said she knew it was terribly serious when nurses and doctors avoided making eye contact and did not rush her to Ethan’s side. An emergency room doctor confirmed her fears, telling her in a quiet voice that Ethan was dead.
Melissa Kane of Connecticut Against Gun Violence said the Songs have bravely retold the story many times in Connecticut as they advocated for legislation to prevent similar tragedies from occurring. Kane was with them at the House earlier this month when the House voted 127-16 to approve the bill to require gun owners to safely store untended firearms, loaded or unloaded. They expect the state Senate will soon approve the bill by a similarly large margin.
The Songs, Kane and Po Murray, co-founder of Newtown Action Alliance, are now turning their attention to Congress where they hope to see a federal law approved that will require gun owners to safely store weapons. They have been meeting this week with Republicans on Capitol Hill to discuss Ethan’s Law. So far, only Democrats are backing the proposal which is not supported by the National Rifle Association.
DeLauro anticipates there will be bipartisan support for Ethan’s Law because everyone agrees that protecting children is fundamental.
“We are eager and optimistic to see that this law will be passed quickly because nothing is more important than our children’s lives,” she said.
She and Senator Chris Murphy, who is introducing a Senate version of Ethan’s Law, said the federal bill would include fines for unsafe storage of guns and possible jail time and exposure to civil liabilities if the improperly stored weapon results in injury or death. Their bill would also provide law enforcement grants to states to implement similar laws on the state level.
“Responsible gun owners in Connecticut are responsible because they know that it is no inconvenience to store their gun responsibly and they have no problem asking others to do the same. This is a piece of legislation that can unite gun owners and non-gun owners all around the country,” Murphy said.
Mike Song summed up the need for the bill succinctly: “Commonsense doesn’t always translate into common practice.”
The bill, he explained would simply codify into law the responsible practices for gun storage that most gun owners already follow to keep guns and ammunition from falling into the hands of children.
“Ethan’s Law is simply those storage guidelines with consequences for those people who store their weapons in a dangerous way,” he said.
Nearly 1,000 minors died and more than 18,000 were injured in the United States from unintentional gunshots from 2005 to 2014, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A 2018 Rand Corporation study found that 4.6 million minors in the US live in homes with at least one loaded, unlocked firearm.
Also attending the press conference were Senator Richard Blumenthal, Representatives John Larson, Joe Courtney and Jahana Hayes of Connecticut, and Representatives Mike Thompson of California, Jim Langevin of Rhode Island and Debbie Mucarsei-Powell of Florida.