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View from around the state: Hold parents responsible for loose guns

— From the Wisconsin State Journal

The teenager who shot and killed eight students and two teachers this month at a Santa Fe, Texas, high school got his weapons — a shotgun and a .38-caliber pistol — from his father.

The teenager who shot and killed his principal 12 years ago at a Cazenovia, Wisconsin, high school got his firearms — a shotgun and a .22-caliber handgun — from his father, too.

So far, law enforcement officials haven’t said if the guns used in the Texas massacre were locked away or equipped with locks that prevented them from being fired. But Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo has said he thinks the suspect’s father should be punished.

Sensible limits on firearms and better school security won’t solve every shooting, but they will stop some.

“I believe that anyone that owns a firearm, that doesn’t secure it properly, ends up in the wrong hands, and used to kill innocent people, that that should carry significant consequences,” Acevedo told CBS’ “Face the Nation.” ”We need to think about that on the national level across this country.”

He’s right.

Gun-loving Texas is one of 14 states with “negligent storage laws,” according to The New York Times. Wisconsin isn’t among them.

The laws hold parents with guns criminally liable if their children commit crimes with those weapons. But in the recent high school shooting in Texas, the suspect is 17. The law applies only to children 16 and younger.

Wisconsin is one of 28 states with a child access prevention law affecting gun owners. But that applies only to children 13 and younger.

When a Weston High School student brought his father’s two guns to his rural Cazenovia school in 2006 — killing Principal John Klang, who heroically stopped the student from harming others — he was 15. His father had stored the guns in his bedroom, where the student used a screwdriver to pry open a cabinet.

At a minimum, steel-cable locks on those guns would have slowed the student, forcing him to think longer about what he was doing. The locks also could have stopped the guns from being loaded and fired.

Most handguns are sold with gun locks. Yet many owners disregard or lose the devices.

That needs to change — with significant penalties for those parents and adults who fail to responsibly secure and store their weapons.

Some gun enthusiasts contend a lock defeats the purpose of a weapon. They want to be able to quickly pull their gun from a drawer and potentially use it to impede an intruder.

But disabling a gun lock should take just seconds for an experienced owner, and the technology of locks is constantly improving.

That’s why the State Journal editorial board launched a gun-lock giveaway after the Weston High School shooting. Nearly 8,000 gun locks were distributed for free at hospitals across south-central Wisconsin.

Gun locks won’t stop every senseless shooting. But they will prevent some.

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