Senate panel hears bill on children's access to weapons

Thursday, February 14, 2002

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- Missourians who carelessly leave weapons around when children are present would be fined $500 under a bill heard Wednesday by a Senate panel.

The legislation, known as the Children's Firearm Access Prevention Act, would punish those who allow children under the age of 17 to have easy access to weapons and ammunition.

Under the bill, people could face fines when they know, or should have known, that a child could gain access to their weapons.

"What I'm concerned about is a child dying," said Sen. Betty Sims, the bill's sponsor, who suggested that the fine might even be too low.

"The $500 fine is certainly minor in comparison to what could happen when a child gets hold of a firearm," said Sims, R-Ladue.

The bill contains exceptions when children get a hold of guns that were stored in secure cases or with safety devices, after breaking and entering or when adults had no reason to believe children would be in the area.

13 deaths reported

There also are exceptions for children who use guns in self-defense, hunting or agriculture purposes, or who take guns from active duty police or military members.

Sims said 13 children were killed in Missouri in cases where they had access to weapons in 1999 while another 16 died in 1997.

"This bill is about kids killing kids," Sims told the Senate Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee.

She said at least 20 states have similar laws and that incidents of accidental shootings of children fell in those areas after the laws were enacted.

Sen. Harold Caskey, a committee member and longtime supporter of gun rights, said he was concerned about enforcement of the law.

Weapons bill is SB922.

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