Saving Lives In Ethan's Name

Mike, Ethan and Kristin Song

"Kids around, lock guns down!"

That is the slogan that enfolds Kristin and Mike Song’s mission — a crusade that is also clothed in tragedy.

The first devastating blow for the Connecticut couple came on Jan. 31, 2018, when their 15-year-old son, Ethan, died of an accidental gunshot from an unsecured weapon in a neighbor’s home.

The second came when the Songs were told by the local prosecutor that the friend’s father could not be criminally charged because the state’s safe-storage law applied only in cases where it could be proved that a weapon was loaded.

 “All of a sudden people were wringing their hands and saying, ‘We can’t charge him,’” said Mike. “I said, ‘Not even a $10 parking ticket? Nothing?’”

The Song’s disbelief launched a movement.

Allying with their local lawmaker, state Rep. Sean Scanlon, the Songs won passage of Ethan’s Law, which now requires that Connecticut’s gun owners safely store their weapons even if they are unloaded. It was signed by Gov. Ned Lamont on June 13, 2019, less than 18 months after Ethan’s death.

Now, Kristin, Mike and other proponents  of Ethan’s Law are pushing members of Congress to pass a federal version, first introduced in 2019, requiring that weapons be securely stored. Violators would face criminal penalties and the forfeiture of their firearm. 

Kristin said she and other supporters have been contacting each of Congress’ 100 senators and 435 representatives about the law, which would bring unity to what is currently a patchwork of safe-storage laws in each state.

“I want them to feel my pain, to understand that my home was safe, my child was safe in my home,” she said. “You hope that your neighbor was as safe as you, but in my case he wasn’t.”

Unsecured weapons not only lead to accidental shooting injuries and deaths. A U.S. Secret Service study of school shootings found that most young shooters used weapons from the homes of their parents or close relatives that were either unsecured, not stored “in a meaningful way” or accessible because they knew or guessed the combination to safes, knew where keys were located or guessed passwords.

In Connecticut, the Songs knew that the state’s Democratic lawmakers could pass Ethan’s Law without Republican support, but “wanted this to be a bipartisan bill,” said Kristin. So, she and Mike also took their message to Republican legislators and gun owners, including members of the Connecticut Citizens Defense League, a statewide gun-rights organization.

They also knew that gun owners generally support securing weapons at home, but also prepared messages to counter the arguments of safe-storage opponents.

Mike brought an actual safe to events to demonstrate how quickly gun owners could unlock their weapons in an emergency, rebutting those who claimed that keeping weapons locked up would delay their response to a threat.

He also had a rebuttal prepared for people who claimed storage laws were useless because anyone could learn how to break into a safe, reminding them that they lock the doors to their houses and cars.

“There’s no security expert on the planet that’s not going to tell you to lock up your valuables,” said Mike.

In the end, the head of Republicans in Connecticut’s House attended a press conference in support of Ethan’s Law, and both Democrats and Republicans united to pass it by wide margins in both chambers of the state’s Legislature.

 “We wanted to prove to America that when people put their political parties to the side, they actually do really good work,” said Kristin.

They are hoping for the same result in Congress, while also supporting the efforts of advocates pushing for safe-storage laws in other states and supporting programs through the nonprofit they started, the Ethan Miller Song Foundation. 

The foundation, which holds an annual 5K walk and run, has raised more than $350,000 to support gun-safety, suicide prevention and other programs for children, and a horse sanctuary that provides therapy to troubled teenagers and veterans. A Facebook page, Ethan Song Acts of Kindness, encourages people to perform a good deed in Ethan’s memory and post about what they did.

“We just try to find every way we can to make it a safer world for kids,” said Mike.

 Kristin Song can be reached on Twitter at @kristinsong3 and Mike at @ethanslaw2.



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