With few exceptions, it is a crime under Nevada firearms law for a person to let a child under 18 possess a gun. And depending on the case, children who illegally possess firearms face juvenile or even adult criminal charges.
NRS 202.300 outlines several circumstances whereby a parent or guardian is not liable for his/her child's gun possession. Among these are:
- The person did not aid or knowingly permit the child to have a gun
- The child is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces
- The child had the gun in accordance with Nevada hunting laws
A first-time offense of knowingly letting a violent child have a gun is a category C felony in Nevada, carrying:
- 1 to 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $10,000 in fines
A second-time offense of knowingly letting a violent child have a gun is a category B felony in Nevada, carrying:
- 1 to 6 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe up to $5,000 in fines
Otherwise, allowing a child to have a gun is a misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
On this page, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers discuss how parents, guardians, or other people can be prosecuted for allowing children to have guns. Keep reading to learn the definition of this crime, defense strategies for fighting charges, and possible punishments.
It is a Nevada offense to aid or knowingly permit a child under 18 to handle, possess, or control a gun for any purpose except while the child is accompanied or directed by his/her parent, guardian, or adult legally authorized to have charge of the child.1 In short, it is unlawful to let a child possess a gun without lawful permission and supervision.
Certainly, many Nevada homes have both guns and children growing up in them. And in many parts of the state, parents teaching their kids how to hunt or shoot is a frequent pasttime. Crimes occur when parents or guardians fail to adequetely supervise and secure the guns. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker provides an illustration:
Example: Tim lives in Laughlin with his 10-year-old son Henry. In the past Tim has taken Henry out hunting with his rife and has shown him how to operate it safely. At their house, Tim keeps the gun locked in a gun closet. One day Tim is cleaning the rifle on the front porch when he goes inside to use the bathroom. Henry then goes out on the porch and sits next to the gun. If a Laughlin police officer were riding by, he could arrest Tim and book him at the Tucker Holding Facility for knowingly permitting Henry to possess the gun.
In the above example, it does not matter that Tim normally kept the gun secured, that Tim has taught Henry how to use the gun, or that Henry never touched the gun out on the porch. Merely by leaving the gun out while he went inside, Tim knew...or should have known...that it would be accessible to Henry. And by sitting next to the gun, Henry legally came into possession of the gun because he was without supervision and therefore controlled the gun.
Note that NRS 202.300 was not violated until Henry came into possession of the gun. Had Henry never come out on the porch, Tim would not be guilty of letting a minor possess a gun because no possession occurred. But even if Henry never came into possession of the gun, Tim could still face charges for the Nevada crime of reckless endangerment, which outlaws creating hazardous situations regardless of the outcome.
With limited exceptions, children under eighteen are prohibited from possessing guns in Nevada. Depending on what they do with the gun, child defendants face delinquency procedures in juvenile court or criminal proceedings in adult court. For information on how minors are prosecuted, defended, and punished for illegally possessing guns, read our article on Nevada Juvenile Gun Laws.
Many defenses to Nevada charges of letting minors illegally possess guns turn on the defendants' state of mind. If they did not "knowingly" permit a child to possess the gun, they should not be held criminally liable. The following are four circumstances where people are not guilty of aiding or knowingly permitting children to have guns:
- Unlawful entry. If someone illegally goes onto the premises of where the gun is located and causes the gun to be accessible to the child, the defendant is at no fault if the child then comes into possession of the gun. This defense may come into play if the premises were burgled or trespassed upon.
- Sports or hunting accident. Fatal or injurious accidents from lawful hunting, target-shooting, or sports-shooting are not necessarily criminal in nature. Nevada gun laws are not meant to punish honest mistakes made during legal activities.
- Military duties. No crime occurs when a child gains possession of a gun from a soldier a policeman while performing their official duties. An example is if a cop is busy carrying out an arrest or guarding a protest, and a child furtively steals the gun out of the cop's holster...here, the cop should not be punished for the child's action.
- Firearm was secured. If a person stores the gun in a securely locked container or at a location where a reasonable person would believe it is secure, he/she committed no crime if a child still manages to get a hold of the gun. Nevada law recognizes that no method of safeguarding guns from determined children is foolproof. Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example:
Example: Michelle keeps a pistol locked in her dresser drawer in her Las Vegas home for self-defense purposes. She keeps the key on her at all times and inaccessible to her 15-year-old son Greg. One day Greg's friends dare him to steal the gun, so he goes to Michelle's bedroom and tries to pick the lock. When he can't, he uses powertools to dismantle the dresser and access the gun.
In this above example, Michelle would probably not be charged with letting a minor have a gun. By keeping the drawer locked, she took reasonable security measures to keep Greg away. Unless Greg had showed signs to Michelle that he would do something drastic to get the gun, she should not be responsible for Greg's actions. In the meantime, Greg could face deliquency charges in Clark County Juvenile Court for wrongfully possessing a firearm.
In addition to the above four defenses, Nevada law outlines certain limited conditions where children are permitted to handle guns. In these three additional circumstances, no adult should be found liable of furnishing firearms to minors:
- Military exception. It is not a crime in Nevada for people to aid or allow minors who are members of the U.S. Armed forces to have a gun.
- Hunting exception. In certain situations, children ages 14 and up with a valid hunting license and who have not been legally prohibited from having guns may handle certain firearms while hunting: Regarding rifles or shotguns, children may handle the guns without being accompanied by a parent or guardian, and the guns cannot be fully automatic. Regarding concealable firearms, children may handle the guns only with the written persmission of their parents or guardians. Note that if the child is traveling to or from the hunting ground, the firearm must be unloaded.
- Training exception. In certain situations, children ages 14 and up who are learning how to shoot and handle firearms may possess them without their parent or guardian present: Regarding rifles or shotguns, they cannot be fully automatic, and the children need their parent's or guardian's permission to possess the gun. Regarding firearms that may be concealed, the children need their parent's or guardian's written permission to possess the guns for training purposes. No matter the type of gun, the children cannot be otherwise prohibited by law from handling firearms. In addition, the children must be either:
- Attending a course of instruction in the responsibilities of hunters or a course of instruction in the safe use of firearms; OR
- Practicing the use of a firearm at an established firing range or at any other area where the discharge of a firearm is permitted; OR
- Participating in a lawfully organized competition or performance involving the use of a firearm; OR
- Within an area in which the discharge of firearms has not been prohibited by local ordinance or regulation and the child is engaging in a lawful hunting activity in accordance with Nevada law for which a license is not required; OR
- Traveling to or from any above-described activity, and the firearm is not loaded;
- On real property that is under the control of an adult, and the children have the permission of that adult to possess the firearm on the real property; OR
- At the children's residence.
The penalties for unlawfully allowing a child to possess or handle a gun in Nevada depend on the circumstances. If the person does not know...or have reason to know...that there is a substantial risk that the child will use the firearm to commit a violent act, violating NRS 202.300 is only a misdemeanor carrying a maximum of:
- 6 months in jail, and/or
- $1,000 in fines
But if the defendant does know...or should have known...that the child would probably use the gun for violent purposes, letting a child handle a gun becomes a felony in Nevada. A first-time offense is prosecuted as a category C felony in Nevada, carrying a maximum of:
- 5 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe $10,000 in fines
Meanwhile, a second-time or subsequent offense of knowingly aiding a violent minor to possess a gun is a category B felony in Nevada, carrying a maximum of:
- 6 years in Nevada State Prison, and
- maybe $5,000 in fines
Defendants convicted of NRS 202.300 as a felony lose their right to possess firearms. They may be able to have their gun rights restored through the Nevada pardons process.
Note that it is also a misdemeanor to negligently store or leave a firearm at a location under his/her control, if the person knows or should know that there is a substantial risk that a child may obtain the gun firearm. The penalty is
- 6 months in jail, and/or
- $1,000 in fines
Arrested? Call us...
If you have been arrested for "unlawfully letting a minor handle a gun" in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We offer FREE consultations to discuss how we may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed while you keep your gun rights.
For information on California gun laws, see our article on California gun laws.