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What Charges Can I Face If My Child Finds a Gun in the House?
If you possess a firearm in California and a child gets a hold of it in your home, you can face a number of criminal charges. This is true even if you legally possess the firearm.
Sadly, there are stories in the news almost every week in which a child manages to find a gun leading to often tragic consequences when the gun accidentally is fired. Gun owners in California have legal responsibilities to prevent that from happening, and can be charged with a crime if they have failed to secure and store a firearm in their home and someone gets hurt or killed.
There are two specific sections of the California Penal Code that relate to “criminal storage of a firearm”:
you keep any loaded firearm within any premises that are under your custody or control;
you know or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian, or that a person prohibited from possessing a firearm or deadly weapon pursuant to state or federal law is likely to gain access to the firearm; and
the child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to the child or any other person, or the person prohibited from possessing a firearm or deadly weapon pursuant to state or federal law obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or any other person.
First-degree criminal storage of a firearm in the first degree can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor and is punishable by:
imprisonment for 16 months, or two or three years, and/or a fine of up to $10,000; or by
one year in a county jail and a fine of up to $1,000
Criminal storage of a firearm in the second degree. While the charge of first-degree criminal storage of a firearm is focused on access to and injuries from a gun while in the home, second-degree storage of a firearm addresses a child’s removal of a gun from the home. You could face this charge under Penal Code Section 25100(b) if you fail to store the gun as described above and:
the child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes injury, other than great bodily injury, to himself, herself, or any other person, or
the child carries the firearm to a public place, or
the child draws or exhibits the firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, in a rude, angry, or threatening manner.
Criminal storage of a firearm in the second degree is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
Neither of the criminal storage offenses applies when the firearm is kept in a locked container or locked with a locking device that has rendered the firearm inoperable. (Penal Code Section 25105).
In addition to charges for violation of California “safe storage” laws, you could face additional criminal charges such as child endangerment per Penal Code 273a PC if a child finds a gun you own. If you are facing any charges relating to guns or firearms in California, please give one of our experienced California criminal defense attorneys a call today. (Read our article about private gun transfers in California.)
About the Author
A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.