Gun owner's liability when it comes mishaps involving their children

When pray tell is a good time for the discussion? (Or was that sarcasm along with the paper bag test?)

When there hasn’t been a mass shooting for a week, a month or when? If you accept one common definition of a mass shooting as an “incident in which four or more people, excluding the perpetrator(s), are shot in one location at roughly the same time.” Well, thus far in 2021, the US has rarely gone 24 hours without a mass shooting.

The whole thing was sarcastic, but it shouldn’t escape this discussion that a White 15 year old with a gun is not treated the same way a Black 5 year old is.

If we were actually in charge of her fate, then these are questions that we should certainly have answers to. For all we know, a criminal hid their gun in her car.

However, we are not the prosecutor, nor the jury, and it is unlikely that we will have much more information to go on as mere net denizens. It is not useful to this discussion to wait until we know all the details before progressing.

So, let’s make the assumption, for the purpose of this debate as to what sort of penalty parents should face for leaving guns accessible to children, that she had every reason to know that there was a gun in the car (even if she “forgot”).

Well then, let’s go with the my responses in the ‘inspired by true events’ movie, in which we will take the facts, and flesh out there areas we don’t know with supposition and drama, but keeping to your fairly stated

My ‘fleshed’ out scenario will have the gun owned by the driver’s boyfriend, who has no felonies, but is a bouncer at a local bar who uses the vehicle every night to go to work, and leaves his holstered, but unsecured firearm in the glove box so he can bring it with him to work every night (stupid, technically illegal, but not implausible). The driver of the vehicle knows he does this, but takes no action about it.

So the events play out as described, and I, as screenwriter, get to decide how the parties involved should be charged/punished/etc. Per my understanding (via google as IANAL) of the governing Texas laws -

Texas Penal Code 46.13. Making a firearm accessible to a child is a Class C
misdemeanor and can be enhanced to a Class A, if the child discharges the firearm and
causes death or serious bodily injury to himself or another person.

So, since the owner of the firearm is only in the range of misdemeanor, technically they get to keep owning and buying guns, because, well, Texas [ see also my feeling about need for federal gun safety standards :frowning: ].

However, the driver of the vehicle is probably subject to various child endangerment laws, even in TX, where circumstances such as this where the child is left with risk of imminent harm, would be a felony of the second degree. As such, she loses her right to own and possess firearms, and is subject to state prosecution.

Again, making up details, I’m assuming that she is a single mother with no other direct support for her children, so the courts convict, but choose to set a large amount of community service, and extended probation, along with Child Protective services being responsible for various followups to ensure that she is not otherwise engaging in risky behavior in the household - which could lead to the loss of her children.

The parent of the dead child, meanwhile, sues the BLEEEEEP out of both the owner and the temporary guardian of the child for reckless endangerment and wins big (in my world).

Anyway, that should lay out my feelings, and why I wished I had more info. Because if the owner had used an appropriate lock, the circumstances would be different, as it would if the driver of the vehicle is the owner of the gun.

Please feel free to bring it back up if we do get more info in the future, especially if there is a conviction on any of the above.

This is not a case of leaving a firearm theoretically accessible to children left behind in the car. This case revolves aroung an unsecured (by definition, since I child was able to access a loaded weapon and kill a sibling with it, it was not secured) firearm resulting in one child killing a sibling.

Child protection services needs to be involved immediately based on their protocol for how to protect the children. Assessment of the home environment and if it’s safe for the children, or if the children should be removed temporarily or permanently. Is the spouse capable of safely taking the children? Mom is already guilty of leaving the kids in a dangerous environment with disasterous results.

Police investigate if there are mitigating circumstances such as if there is a reasonable explanation for Mom not knowing there is a loaded firearm in the car. Is there a case for criminal charges. Did the spouse know about the loaded weapon or responsible for it being in the car?

If the police investigation uncovers a case for prosecuting criminal charges, then it should proceed to the DA. While the DA/CPS may decided that it is in the best interests of the surviving children that Mom cares for the surviving children, that does not guilt is her only punishment. At a minimum, Mom needs to be found guilty of some kind of charges, supervised release for a long period of time, ideally counseling. I think mom should be found guilty of a felony, but as a felon may be not able to find employment that allows her to also raise the surviving children. It’s a shit situation, but I don’t think justice is served by calling it a tragedy and weight of guilt sufficient punishment.

Reminds me of a straight edge kid. Volunteered to drive at the high school all night graduation party in Boulder CO. The morning after while taking a carload of graduates home, fell asleep and the wheel, hit another car and killed the father of two small kids. A tragic accident. The straight edge kid spent something like a year in jail. I don’t remember the charges. The straight edge kid meant well, was doing the right thing, but lack of judgement after being up all night resulted in two little kids losing their father. How do you make that right? I’m sure the straight edge kid will regret that every day of his life, as the Mom might.

Just figured I’d add some recent ‘real world’ legislation to the thread

Short version, the first bill requires a firearm owner to report a stolen firearm within 5 days, or subject to small (but increasing if repeated pattern) fines. The second, more in line with the thread, requires firearms in a household with juveniles or adults who are ineligible to have access to firearms to be secured, as well as requiring some form of locking device to be provided with every firearm purchase. Now most new firearms do come with some sort of security device, but this would presumably be very helpful in the case of used firearms.

Medication errors, some with fatal impact, happen.

Prosecution requires at least strong suspicion of intent or at least reckless negligence or endangerment.

There are legal standards to be met for child endangerment. Reckless negligence in safe gun storage should not be protected from prosecution as a result of how much of the country views guns as a quintessential American symbol. Neither should it be held to a different tougher standard because of guns bad.

I have a couple of guns I keep in a keypad safe maybe 10 feet from my pillow.

I don’t see a situation in which I’m going to need a unlocked gun on a nightstand. You need that, then your enemy just busted through your bedroom door with zero warning. Given my house layout and copious amount of dogs I just don’t see that happening.

Under ideal circumstances (I’m lying down awake, I’m looking at a stopwatch), it takes me about 10 seconds to get a gun in my hand. From a dead sleep, disoriented, I don’t even know how long it would take to get from waking up, to realizing “I need a gun”, to stumbling out of bed towards the safe, to getting a gun in my hand. I have one minor child in the house. By the time that kid is out of the house, I’ll probably be a grandparent by my older children, with grandkids running around, so I’m never going to have a gun outside the safe.

Not everybody has that kind of situation though, if I live in a small apartment alone, no dogs, in a dangerous part of town, maybe I do need it. Thankfully I’m not in that situation.

So, I made a note to myself to follow up on this after our discussion, and see if we could get any more info, figured I’d share it for those who were following the thread.

So, so far my scenario is at least holding up, in that the vehicle operator who had direct custody of the kids involved has been arrested - “Shamira Wright-Sanders was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts of endangering a child with severe bodily injury, which is a second-degree felony” per the article above. Which was in line with my expectations per the child endangerment laws in #104.

Sadly, “Police have not said who’s gun it was or where in the car it was found.” So we have pretty much no new information on the rest of circumstances which lead to the events. If someone has superior google-fu, I’d love to see more as this article is dated about 4 days after the last pertinent post in the thread.

A different article had the following second hand information from the mother of Dazmon Ray Brown Jr.:

Matlock says she hasn’t been in touch with Wright-Sanders since the shooting but says she’s reached out through a friend to try and clarify what happened and whose gun it was.

“She just kept saying she didn’t know it was in the car,” Matlock said. “But that’s a car she drives daily.”

Matlock says she believes the children were looking in the trunk for snacks when they found the handgun.

Which if true, rules out part of my scenario where she knew the firearm was in the car, but begs the question of who owned it and how it got there. Again, if anyone has better information, please update the thread, and I’ll try to check back on it in another month, month and a half.

Within 5 days of what?

5 days since the firearm was actually stolen or within 5 days of discovering the firearm was stolen?

I have a cabin in northern Wisconsin. The few guns I keep there are unloaded, trigger locked and kept in a locked safe. But nothing is impenetrable. I haven’t been there since March but may go up over July 4th. If I discover those rifles stolen HTF would I know when they were taken to be able to report it within 5 days of the actual theft?

And if it’s within 5 days of discovering them missing, what if I’m not sure they were actually stolen? What if it’s possible my nephew went in and borrowed them and forgot to tell me and it takes me 8 days to get a hold of him? Then he tells me he did not take them they must have been stolen. Oops, now I’m past the 5 day reporting rule. What if I know for a fact they were stolen on April 3 but wait until July 4th to report it and claim I discovered them missing on July 3rd. Who would really know?

In other words, it’s a useless law that won’t solve anything and will only make bad guys have to come up with a more clever story regarding their gun being stolen.

SB21-078 requires an individual who owns a firearm and has reasonable cause to believe that the firearm has been lost or stolen to report that firearm to a law enforcement agency within five days after discovering that the firearm is missing.

A first offense for failure to make such a report is a civil infraction punishable by a $25 fine, and a second or subsequent offense is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum $500 fine. The bill requires a law enforcement agency that receives a report to enter information about the lost or stolen firearm into the National Crime Information Center database and report the information to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

I agree that like a lot of legislation, it’s not well written for ‘real world’ scenarios. Still, considering how minimal the initial fine is, I think they’re trying to target those who have loose controls (oh, I lent it to a friend . . . 3 years ago) of their firearms, or ones who are trying to use ‘lost’ to cover up cash only illegal sales.

I do think it’s mostly about appearance, as much gun legislation is (don’t get me started about the magazine limit in CO), but I brought it up primarily regarding the gun lock legislation which had direct bearing on the the thread with regards to mishaps involving children.

But they do deserve special treatment specifically because guns (arms) are singled out as a constitutional right. As such for other items the responsibility is of the state for such an item in society and in the hands of a person. Guns OTOH are (in theory), are a right of the person, and thus their responsibility not the states. As such if someone has demonstrated being irresponsible with their right to the detriment of another, the state can remove such a right.

As to the OP, the circumstance should be considered, but in general the person should lose their right to bear arms.

If the child finds a gun, fires it and someone in an adjoining apartment is injured(or killed), should there be charges, what should those charges be and who in particular should be charged?

Assuming the child was ‘playing’ with the gun, as opposed to self defense gone wrong (or right). I think that’s how you mean to present this hypothetical.

The person should most certainly lose the right to have a gun, also should be civilly liable for the injury/death caused. As for jail time, I personally feel that is revenge and I don’t see it as effective, actually I see it as counterproductive and in generally tends to increase crime over time, including jailing someone for revenge is a crime against humanity itself. But community service would be an option for a sentence as I feel that is more about rehabilitation, and in general a positive for humanity.

How in the world could a child firing a gun and hitting someone they couldn’t even see in an adjoining apartment be self-defense? Your clarification was not necessary.



I said no such thing.

OK let’s try this, the child was shooting at a bad guy and a stray shot hit someone else in an adjoining apartment. Or it happened in a balcony of the apartments. Again clarification was needed. Any your point arguing this is irrelevent anyway. My point that a child could have a legit reason for firing a firearm however is not.

Negligent Homicide/Involuntary Manslaughter is a criminal charge, not a civil charge.

I jailing ever appropriate, in your opinion?