From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 16, 2000
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113

Ellis to File Legislation Requiring Trigger Locks on Guns
Governor's comments give Senator hope that gun safety reform will pass 77th Legislature

AUSTIN -- As efforts to pass responsible gun reforms heat up in Congress and gains new converts, State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) today announced he will renew his effort to require trigger safety locks on guns in Texas.

"Texas parents want to know their kids are safe, that is why I intend to renew the effort to require trigger locks be sold with every firearm sold in Texas," said Senator Ellis.

Last session, Senator Ellis led the fight for responsible gun reforms in the Texas Senate. He authored SB 316, legislation requiring trigger locks be sold with any firearm purchased in Texas, but it failed to even receive a hearing in the Texas Criminal Justice Committee. Even after the tragic shootings at Columbine High School in Colorado, trigger lock legislation languished without a hearing.

To gain attention to this issue and break the legislative gridlock, Senator Ellis tried unsuccessfully to attach his trigger safety lock measure to SB 717, legislation outlawing lawsuits against gun manufacturers in Texas. Though SB 717 was held up in the Senate for weeks, trigger locks did not become law.

Texans support responsible gun reforms. According to a 1998 Texas Poll, 80 percent of Texans favor a law requiring gun makers to provide safety locks on all guns they sell.

Even though SB 316 failed last session, comments from Republican leaders in Texas and across the nation provide hope that efforts to mandate trigger locks are gaining support. On March 15, 2000, the Houston Chronicle reported that Governor George W. Bush and New York Governor George Pataki backed efforts for trigger or safety locks. In Congress, the House of Representatives approved a non-binding resolution calling for child safety locks on all handguns. "The tide is clearly turning here in Texas and across the nation," said Ellis. "I believe the national debate on guns will bring even more elected officials to our side and help us pass this important reform measure."

Fifteen states, including Texas, have "child access prevention" laws, which require "safe storage" of firearms to protect children. Two states (Connecticut and Massachusetts) have passed laws mandating child safety gun lock laws.

Everyday in the United States, 15 children age 19 and under are killed in gun homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings. Many more are seriously injured. In 1997, 359 children aged 10-19 died in Texas from firearms-related injuries, 21 percent of all deaths in that bracket. Nationwide, approximately 3,200 youths between the age of 15 and 19 are killed by firearms each year. Texas accounts for almost 10% of all those deaths.

Twenty percent of all deaths among adolescents aged 15-19 are firearms-related. Only car wrecks kill more teens in the U.S. For African American males in that age bracket, 48% of all deaths are firearms-related. Of teenage homicides, 73% involved handguns.

"A locked gun is not going to kill a child," said Ellis. "Requiring trigger locks is a responsible way to ensure our children are safe."