The boy who shot two Kentucky high school students to death and injured 18 this week obtained his gun from his mother’s closet, reports Ohio Valley ReSource. Kentucky State Police have not confirmed the report from another parent at the school, but it fits a strong pattern. A 2004 report by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education found that over two-thirds of students who used guns in violent acts at school got those guns from their own home or that of a relative. That’s why many states have some sort of child access prevention law to encourage the safe storage of firearms and make adults liable if children get access to guns. Under Kentucky law there is no requirement for secure storage of weapons, and adults are liable only if they “recklessly provide a handgun” to a minor they think might use it illegally.
“We know that those laws work,” says Hannah Shearer said of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which formed after Arizona U.S. Representative Gabby Giffords was shot in 2011. “There is research that states that have child access prevention laws have successfully reduced unintentional gun injuries among children and also child suicides,” Shearer said. “We know that in states with those laws fewer kids are getting their hands on their parents’ guns and harming themselves with guns.” Many of the laws have been in effect long enough to give researchers time to assess their effectiveness. A 2000 study, for example, found that Florida’s law, which carries some of the stiffest penalties for not securing a firearm in the presence of children, has been especially effective, cutting accidental child deaths from guns in half. (NPR reports on why so many people who have been ordered to surrender weapons still possess them.)