Gun storage education bill moving through House

Posted April 16, 2019 2:04 p.m. EDT
Updated April 16, 2019 2:31 p.m. EDT

— A bill to create a state awareness campaign about safe firearm storage passed the House Health committee Tuesday on a unanimous vote.

House Bill 508 would give the state Department of Health and Human Services $155,700 over the next two years to design a website and other resources aimed at helping parents and families learn how to store firearms safely.

Under state law, anyone who lives with a child under 18 is required to store firearms in a way that prevents access by an unsupervised minor. But Alan Dellapenna with the state's Child Fatality Task Force said North Carolina has seen an increase in recent years in child deaths by firearms, both accidental and by suicide.

Dellapenna said the bill came out of discussions by a panel of stakeholders ranging from the National Rifle Association to gun control groups, looking for ways to reverse that trend.

"We called everybody to come together to say, 'What’s some common ground solutions that we can find to provide parents and families in North Carolina with tools and resources for, if you choose to have a firearm in your home, how can you protect your family and your child?'" he explained to the committee.

Under the measure, DHHS would be required to set up an online portal with information and a toolkit to help local groups set up their own community awareness campaigns. The bill also directs the agency to buy and distribute free or discounted gun locks as part of its two-year outreach program.

The bill specifically forbids the agency or any other group from using the state funding to advocate or lobby for changes to existing gun laws.

It could be on the House floor as soon as Tuesday evening.