You could certainly be forgiven if you thought Ethans Law, recently signed into law by Governor Ned Lamont and hailed as another step in ending gun violence, was only about gun storage. The law is a direct response to a tragedy in Guilford where the owner of the firearm in question was unable to be charged with a crime because the gun was not loaded. Under the law, the gun owner in question would have been arrested and charged with a crime.
The passage of the bill was an emotional one, notably for the parents of the boy, who are well known in Guilford and now, statewide. The community rallied around the family, and there was universal anger when state police announced the gun owner would not be charged with a crime due to current law. This law, Ethans Law, would solve that.
Almost all of the quotes from elected officials mention this aspect of the law. Governor Lamont stated “laws that require gun owners to safely store firearms and ammunition in a manner that prevents minors from accessing them are commonsense and have near universal support, including among gun owners.” State representative Sean Scanlon the laws sponsor agreed, stating that “ensuring that all firearms are safety stored and inaccessible to minors is common sense and working with the Song family to introduce and pass Ethan’s Law has been one of the greatest honors of not only my public service but my entire life. State senator Christine Cohen echoed similar sentiments.
That’s great. But there is one small problem with the focus on a legal technicality. That aspect of the law may save lives. Another aspect of the law will save far more, if properly implemented and supported with the same energy that Lamont and Scanlon and Cohen have shown with the criminal aspect.
The bill mandates that the state Board of Education create a gun safety curriculum and that municipalities then will have the option to add that curriculum locally. More gun education has typically been the talking point of the right, the left has focused on tougher gun laws overall.
But both are needed. And that the proponents of Ethan’s Law are largely ignoring this aspect is troubling.
Students learning the dangers of drugs and alcohol is already commonplace, and in often graphic, shocking ways. Especially around prom season, when alcohol related incidents and deaths are more frequent, schools have gone to drastic measures to show the consequences of alcohol abuse, showing pictures, demonstrations, and in some cases, dropping vehicles from 3-4 stories high to show the impacts of a collision.
But unlike alcohol, most children touch their first toy firearm, in some manner, well before 5 years old. Toy guns are common, and the violence they are responsible for is presented in a cartoonish way, typically devoid of any semblance of the real impact of gun violence. And this is repeated in thousands of tv shows and movies children see constantly, almost from infancy. This won’t change anytime soon, no matter what more restrictive laws anti-gun advocates see passed.
At no time in history, when children spend years being desensitized to the impacts of firearms, has gun education been more needed in the school system. And with the law leaving it up to local school systems to implement, each town will have a choice on implementing this curriculum and therefore implementing the full text of Ethans Law.
But for that to happen, the curriculum needs to be adopted in schools. Even schools in districts that lean left, or want to pretend that teaching gun safety may be pushing a “gun culture” on students, will have to see past the politics and realize this is a viable way to decrease gun violence, and deaths.
We live in a country that has, like it or not, 400,000,000 guns. They are not going away. We teach alcohol safety, vehicle safety, food safety; we even teach water safety. We accept that teaching safety in these areas works, it literally saves lives. We also need to accept the reality that guns exist and for students to truly be safer, teaching gun safety will have a far greater impact on that goal than changing who can be criminally charged in certain gun storage situations.
But for this to happen, Lamont, Scanlon and Cohen need to continue the advocacy. They need to be the ones to push the curriculum, and hold the same press conferences with Boards of Education as they adopt this very curriculum in each and every school district.
So far, all of the public statements have been on one aspect of the law, the portion loved by the left. But to truly impact the lives of children, the same lawmakers must publicly, and eagerly, support the entire law and not rest until schools actually adopt the gun safety curriculum portion of Ethans Law.