Arapahoe County area District Attorney George Brauchler needs to review a measure mandating safe-gun storage before taking a final position on it, but from what he’s seen so far he’s not sure “we need it or that it accomplishes the goal it sets out to accomplish.”
Brauchler clarified his position in an interview yesterday with the Colorado Times Recorder.
In a radio interview last week, Brauchler said in the “best-case scenario,” a gun-safety measure under consideration at state Legislature could “address” six homicides per year in Colorado, and “every one of those lives matters,” says Arapahoe County area District Attorney George Brauchler.
“And that’s not a small number,” he said on air.
But Brauchler said last week he opposed the proposed law, which would mandate the safe storage of guns to keep them out of the hands of children, because enforcement is “extremely, extremely tricky” and there’s already a “child abuse statute” that allows for prosecution of parents whose kids get a hold of guns. Brauchler made the comments during an interview with KHOW’s Ross Kaminsky last Friday morning.
BRAUCHLER ON KHOW: “It looks like, if you look at what coroners have reported and some other stuff, that the safe storage bill, if it was 100% effective, it could address up to six homicides or injuries — I think it was homicides –a year, across the state of Colorado. And that’s not a small number. I mean, every one of those lives matters.
“But that’s the best-case scenario for that particular law. But I agree with you, enforcement is extremely, extremely tricky. I think they both sound very common sense-y, and that’s why I think they are going to end up passing. People are going to go, ‘Well, of course, you shouldn’t leave guns lying around. The issue is, we already have laws that allow us to prosecute adults under a child abuse statute that says if you put a kid in a position to hurt themselves or others, we can already prosecute you for that. We don’t need a safe-storage bill for that.”
Brauchler described the bill as “targeting kids getting guns and hurting themselves or others,” which he said on air was a “noble cause.”
“But it’s a bill that criminalizes people who don’t take steps to prevent kids from getting their hands on guns in those circumstances,” said Brauchler on air.
In his interview with the Colorado Times Recorder, Brauchler explained that the details of the bill will make it more clear whether it will have an impact.
“I am in no way saying that I don’t think those lives are worth saving, whether it’s one or six, I just don’t think those lives get saved any more with that proposed law than our existing child abuse law,” he said.
“I haven’t seen the draft, so we are speculating, but there is a provision in the law that says if you have a broader law out there and then the Legislature passes a much more specific law that addresses that behavior, the defendant can only be prosecuted for the more specific behavior covered by it,” said Brauchler. “So if they make a misdemeanor defense for not securing your firearms, it’s possible, depending on how they draft it, that you may actually take away from me the ability to prosecute the much more serious felony, if it applied. You and I wouldn’t want that. We came up with statement law that actually makes it less costly to someone to leave their gun on the table.”
Tom Mauser, whose son died in the Columbine school shooting, says passing a safe-gun-storage bill “sends a message that gun owners need to take this seriously.” The existence and passage of the law is part of a public education process that continues when the law is used to prosecute violators, he says.
“Enforcement can be difficult for any number of laws, but we pass them anyway,” said Mauser. “We can agree that gun owners should store their guns responsibly, but we haven’t put this into law.
We need to make it clear that you will be prosecuted if you are irresponsible with your guns.”
Mauser added that having specific statute in place can also help prosecutors convince juries and provide justice for victims of gun accidents. So “enforcement occurs when these laws are broken, sadly when there is a tragedy,” he said.
“If you’re the neighbor, and your kid was shot, you’re saying, ‘My God, why didn’t my neighbor take precautions.’ We want to make it clear,” Mauser said.
Brauchler is best known for leading the prosecution of the Aurora theater shooter, who was not convicted of the death penalty sought by Brauchler in the case.
State House Democrats are working on a safe-storage bill, according to Jarrett Freedman, a spokesman for the House majority.
During the radio interview Friday, Kaminsky offered his opinion on the proposed safe-storage law legislation and another bill requiring gun owners to report lost guns to police:
KAMINSKY: “My gut instinct on both of them is that 90% of the time they will be unenforceable, and no one will really know,” Kaminsky told Brauchler. “And I don’t really like that kind of law, because the enforcement feels quite unfair. And I also don’t think they are going to make a difference. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it.”
“I think you are right on both of those,” replied Brauchler.
Listen to Ross Kaminsky’s interview with George Brauchler below:
This article was updated on Feb. 11 with comments from Brauchler.