Police have elected not to press charges against a 17-year-old boy who accidentally shot and killed an 8-year-old boy while handling a gun. In cases like these, it is often the gun owner who faces charges for failing to properly secure the gun in a locked safe unloaded as the law requires. However, no one will face charges related to this incident. In some cases, the outcome of an event is tragic enough that the law does not see fit to punish those responsible further. In this case, the gun should not have been accessible to the 17-year-old, and it should not have been loaded.
Is it Illegal to Improperly Store a Gun?
Yes, but the penalties for this crime are closer to a traffic violation than an actual crime. You can face a $10,000 penalty if a minor gains access to your gun and harms themselves or someone else. Generally speaking, you can also face civil penalties related to injuries suffered by a victim of an accidental gunshot wound.
That brings us to another element of this case. Whose fault was it that the gun went off in the first place? Well, in terms of negligence, at least, we have the gun owner who allowed a 17-year-old access to a loaded weapon. The 17-year-old was under the impression that the gun was not loaded at the time. It went off and killed an 8-year-old boy. It is not clear if the 17-year-old was allowed access to the gun, but that seems unlikely. So, the 17-year-old contributed negligence to the death as well. He will not be charged.
However, the third element of this case is the gun itself. We will not name names here, but one gun company has been sued repeatedly (in some cases by police officers) who say the gun discharged for no apparent reason. In one case, an officer was injured after his gun went off while still holstered. The company claims the issue was addressed, but recent reports are that more guns are going off. So, in some cases, the gun company can contribute liability to a death like this, further complicating criminal charges against the shooter.
At any rate, prosecutors will not be attempting to pin a $10,000 fine on the gun owner, and it looks as if the gun was legal, so other than a tragic accident, no more will come of the situation. While the laws surrounding gun storage may seem onerous, they would prevent situations like the one described above from ever occurring.
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