Parental Liability: The Crime of Loaded and Unlocked Guns Where Children Play

While there are many arguments for and against regulating the safety of firearms in the United States, there is one point on which almost everyone can agree: No child should die because of guns.

And yet in the United States, close to 5,300 children died due to firearms in one year, far more than in any other industrialized country (for example, that number is 153 in Canada). Overall, about 600 people die in the United States due to unintentional shootings every year and, of those, 65 percent happen in the home. The most common cause was simply individuals playing with guns.

So how do parents who do not allow guns in their homes deal with their children playing in the homes where a gun is present? Nationwide, more than 1.7 million children live in homes where unlocked and loaded guns are present (source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control).

In California, fortunately, some laws make this less likely to happen. They include the following:

  • Gunlocks are required with the sale of all new and used handguns. The lock must meet the approval of the California Department of Justice.
  • A gun owner who keeps a loaded firearm on his or her premises and who reasonably expects a minor to visit should keep that firearm in a locked container.
  • Failure to respect the rule on locked guns can be a felony offense.

When a child is injured or killed by accidental gunfire in the home of a friend, the parents or guardians of that child are in violation of a criminal law. But their negligence and recklessness can also be the subject of a civil lawsuit. A personal injury attorney can seek the fair compensation victims and their families deserve.

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