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Focus of Safe Storage of Guns Moves to Vehicle Lockboxes

The campaign promoting safe storage of guns has traditionally focused on in-home accidents, but lately it has expanded to encourage — and in some cases mandate — that gun-toting drivers store their weapons in their vehicles inside lockable gun boxes, the New York Times reports. That is because guns stolen from vehicles have become the nation's largest source of stolen firearms, according to a report issued last year by the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety. The report found that a decade ago, less than a quarter of all gun thefts were from cars; in 2020, over half of them were. The thefts come at a time when more states have adopted permitless carry laws. Gun-control advocates hope they can bridge their differences with gun-rights advocates with the safe-storage solution to the vehicle-theft problem. “I do think that safe storage is where we find a lot of common ground,” said Christian Heyne, vice president of policy and programs at Brady, the gun-violence prevention organization.

That may be overly optimistic. Some experts say widespread adoption of the boxes may require a dramatic cultural change akin to the revolution in seatbelt use. And it may prove to be even more polarizing than seatbelts ever were. The National Rifle Association and other gun-rights advocates believe car lockbox mandates to be an onerous burden — a reflection of how the avalanche of guns is creating new sources of conflict. Some skeptics doubt even widespread use of the boxes would make much of a dent in gun violence in a nation with more than 400 million firearms in circulation. “It’s like peeing in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Peter Scharf, a criminologist at the Louisiana State University School of Medicine in New Orleans. Still, laws mandating that guns in cars be locked away are already on the books in some states, including California, Oregon, New York and New Jersey. And some red states seem ready to try the tactic. Tennessee’s Republican-dominated state legislature is considering a pair of bills with bipartisan support that would explicitly outlaw leaving a firearm in a motor vehicle or boat unless it is “locked within the trunk, utility or glove box, or a locked container securely affixed.” The only allowable punishment, enrollment in a court-approved firearm safety course, would be purposefully mild to encourage cooperation. John C. Drake, the Nashville police chief, has endorsed the bill. “With gun ownership comes serious responsibility on several fronts, including securing guns, particularly in motor vehicles, so that they do not come into the hands of thieves/violent criminals,” Drake wrote last week in a letter to legislative leaders. The National Rifle Association opposes the legislation, arguing it would discourage reports to police of stolen guns.


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