Why are guns left in restrooms, and what can be done about it?

·2 min read
Joe Johnston/jjohnston@thetribunenews.com

We’re beginning to see a pattern here: Guns and restrooms don’t mix.

For the second time in less than three years, a gun was carelessly left in a public restroom in San Luis Obispo County — both times by someone employed in law enforcement.

The first and more infamous incident happened in July 2019, when a gun belonging to former San Luis Obispo Police Chief Deanna Cantrell went missing after she left it on top of a toilet paper dispenser in an El Pollo Loco restaurant. It was eventually recovered.

On Monday, a civilian employee of the county Sheriff’s Office left a firearm in the restroom inside the lobby of the County Jail, where it was allegedly scooped up by a newly released inmate.

The person and the weapon were tracked down about 45 minutes later.

The employee, who was not identified, has a concealed weapons permit, according to a news release.

While it sounds weird, it’s not unheard of for guns to be left behind in restrooms by members of law enforcement; the internet has several stories about similar incidents.

A U.S. Capitol police lieutenant left a Glock 22 in a bathroom in the Capitol Visitor Center complex, according to Roll Call.

A DEA agent left a gun in a CVS restroom, according to The Trace, a nonprofit news organization that reports on gun violence.

And the Kansas City Star reported that a deputy left a loaded gun in a family bathroom at a Target store.

“The gun was on a belt found dangling from a handle in the family bathroom Thursday at the store in Hilliard, a suburb of Columbus, according to a police report obtained by McClatchy News. It had a bullet in the chamber and a full magazine,” the newspaper reported.

There are more examples, but you get the picture.

As we wrote when the police chief lost her weapon, almost every one of us has lost or damaged something through carelessness, so it’s hard not to sympathize in cases like these.

But when a weapon is lost, the consequences can be much more severe than say, losing a cell phone or a set of keys.

Fortunately, in both SLO County cases, no one was killed or injured. Still, this is nothing to take lightly.

We don’t want to be indiscreet, but surely there must be some best practices for handling weapons when a member of law enforcement (or anyone else, for that matter) has no choice but to carry a gun into a bathroom.

Judging by what just happened, we’d say it’s time to dust them off and review them.

Meanwhile, if you happen to find a gun in a public restroom, it’s not something that qualifies as finders-keepers.

Just turn it over to someone in authority.