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Parent leaves gun unsecured, child uses it in a crime, should the parent be held responsible?

Discussion in 'Legal & Political Archive' started by Joe Link, Jun 10, 2014.

  1. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    I've been meaning to ask this question for a while, curious to hear your thoughts.

    If a parent fails or chooses not to secure their gun(s) and their children uses it to commit a crime (such as a school shooting), should the parent be charged with negligence?

    Note that I am not talking about any sort of law mandating this, I'm referring to after the crime has been committed.
     
  2. Qaolin

    Qaolin 1 A.U. from a G2 near Beaverton Old Army Cook Silver Supporter

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    Good question Joe. Parental responsibility is paramount. If you have children in the house and don't want them to have easy access to weapons, lock them up.
     
  3. Greywhisker

    Greywhisker Member

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    Interesting question. My daughter is 7 and is consistently being taught to respect life, and tools as well their proper use. When she's older (her teens) she will have full access to my safe as I don't want her to be in a position where she can't defend herself when at home.

    I have no reason to believe she would use them to commit a crime but I am not a mind reader, nor do I know what makes a sound person crack. As far as I know, I'm doing everything right. If she "cracks" and takes my firearm outside the home without my consent she would be committing several crimes. Even if the gun is never fired. If she has my consent we are both committing a crime (long gun, aside by circumstance).

    Now, my step-daughter (who doesn't live with me) is having some mental troubles for which she's getting treatment. If I gave her access to my safe and something happened, I think a case of negligence against me could be made.

    So, there may be a case of negligence by the owner/parent in some cases. Tough to generalize.
     
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  4. Tbucket

    Tbucket Olympia,Wash. Active Member

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    Until the state deems your child is an adult, you are pretty much responsible for everything that child does regardless if it is a gun, a car or something silly like shoplifting. Responsibility is one of the biggest things lacking in our culture right now, always someone else's fault. You gun, your car, your child are all your responsibility.
     
  5. Chee-to

    Chee-to Oregon Well-Known Member

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    That's a tough question, if the kid took unsecured a steak knife out of the silverware drawer, and used it in a crime; should the parents be charged ? A weapon is a weapon...........
     
  6. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    I marked 'maybe' and here's why - if a teenager takes the parent's car without permission, goes out, drinks and hits someone, do we charge the parents for that crime? If we do, I don't recall seeing it happen - though another party may choose to sue the parents in civil courts, I just don't recall a parent being charged with a crime. On the flip side, if a parent were to buy alcohol for a teenage party, they can be charged with a crime, and that has happened, even here locally.

    It's a complicated issue, and I don't think it's one that has a clear cut answer. What if the parent locks up the guns, but the child figures out a way to bypass the locks. If the parent has taken reasonable precautions, should they be held accountable? I think as with any crime, you have to look at things like intent/motive, precautions or lack thereof and other related circumstances. If a parent has been completely negligent with regard to weapons in the home (gun, knife, etc.), then perhaps they do need to be charged as well.

    It's a good question, certainly worthy of discussion. Considering the new Multnomah County gun laws that went into effect last year, I suspect if it's determined the shooter was a kid, and he got the gun from a family member, we may just see this very question put to the test in our own back yard.
     
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  7. Greywhisker

    Greywhisker Member

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    I think there is a certain contradiction there. Saying responsibility is lacking in our culture and then removing all responsibility form the child doesn't fly. Legal definitions of adult aside, there is nothing, sans, mental disorder that bars a teenager from knowing they shouldn't steal a firearm and then use that stolen firearm to commit murder. To hold the parent responsible for that seems a little ridiculous when held against the "responsibility is lacking on our culture" sentiment. Which I agree with, btw, lol.

    Unless mental disorders or previous criminal activity on your child's part is known then it is not irresponsible to allow your child access to your guns, assuming proper training and knowledge was given. Because if proper training and knowledge wasn't given then, yes, parent is responsible.

    It's an interesting question, indeed. :)
     
  8. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    That brings up another question - do we even know if the shooter this morning was a kid? I think everyone is assuming he (assuming it's a 'he') was a student - but I've not seen any report confirming that yet. If it's an adult, then the discussion, at least with respect to this particular incident, may be moot.
     
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  9. Joe Link

    Joe Link Portland, OR Well-Known Member Staff Member Lifetime Supporter 2015 Volunteer 2016 Volunteer

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    It's certainly a tough question...
     
  10. Tbucket

    Tbucket Olympia,Wash. Active Member

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    I never meant to say the child held no responsibility, just that the parent is responsible also. Should have made that more clear in my response. I guarantee you that if the child is a minor and something like what Joe mentioned happens and it goes to court the minor and the parent is going to be held liable.
     
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  11. crankshaft

    crankshaft oregoncity New Member

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    YES!!
     
  12. RicInOR

    RicInOR Washington County Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    What is the age of adult? age of responsibility?

    Those 12 yr old girls are being charged as adults for killing their classmate.


    If the child is not and adult, then yes, the parents should be held to account.
    Determining that is challenging.
     
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  13. Greywhisker

    Greywhisker Member

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    In this case, I think the parents should only be charged if it was negligent to leave the guns unsecured. I'll use my situation as a generic example.

    I'm assuming that those who choose to own guns are teaching their children proper handling and safety of guns. I started teaching my daughter 2 years ago when she was 5. Taught her the 4 rules and we watched videos from the NRA about guns at friends' houses, etc.. I completely removed the curiosity and novelty from them by letting her hold one and pull the trigger (or try to as the case was, double action pistol, lol). And because I'm a craftsman of sorts I always teach her how to respect all tools. I regularly practice drawing and dry-firing, even in her presence and always use those opportunities to reinforce the 4 rules with her.

    Because she is not old enough to properly handle a firearm as a self-defense tool, they are secured from her reach. To do otherwise, I think, would be negligent. However, in a couple years she'll start shooting .22's and start learning defensive situational awareness and home defense tactics just like she learns fire-drill escape routes. During this time my firearms will still be secured from her reach.

    As enters her teens and show the capability to handle defensive calibers I will NOT restrict access to the firearms. If ever I am not home and she is, it would be negligent to leave her defenseless. They would still be secured, mind you but not from my child.

    Now, if something between now and then changes in her mental state or her behavior suggests, or is flat-out criminal, then giving her access to them could be negligent, in a civil court. I haven't come across any cases of criminal negligence but that does not mean it isn't possible.

    There are far too many variables in place to give a guilty verdict to the parents in Joe's scenario. But it is great for getting a healthy conversation going and for examining what each of us are doing for our children. :) I love these deep thought conversations!
     
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  14. Riot

    Riot Benton County, Washington Well-Known Member

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    There is no cut and dry answer. The real issue isn't just locking up your firearms, it's teaching your children to respect firearms and value human life.

    I hope that my children will be intelligent enough to not only know how to use firearms, but be able to be disciplined anough to respect them and trustworthy enough to leave them unsecure for them to use, as well.

    My dad never had to lock up any of his guns, but I knew at an early age what was off limits and what was "okay". Parents shoving their nose in their phones and leaving their children to their own devices is what is wrong with parents, not a bunch of unsecure firearms.

    If I lock up my guns in a safe but my child watched me hit in the combo then still grabbed them out and shot up a school- the issue wasn't that I let my guard down around my child, it's that he shot up a school. There is, however, that line that gun right's advocates seem to forget...if I left a pot boiling on the stove and my three-year old dumps it on his face it was my fault, not my child's and I should have been more careful. If I left a loaded AR on my porch overnight and it was used in a crime you all would want to beat me with a club, would you not?

    So it's not that you have to just keep firearms locked away in a safe and threaten your kids with limb loss if they ever touch it- it's way much more than that. You actually have to be pro-active in their lives and ensure they're making good, healthy choices...be a parent, not a friend, not a bully- just their parent.
     
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  15. Jamie6.5

    Jamie6.5 Western OR Well-Known Member

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    I think you may have hit on something that is a sticking point for DAs and the courts.
    If you try the kid as an adult, which the system frequently seeks to do, they may in essence be insulating the parent(s) from prosecution.
    If the trial is in juvenile court, the 'rents may be subject to criminal negligence charges.

    In either case, it's a pretty sure bet that the parents will end up in civil court when the victim's survivors sue them for not locking up the gun.
     
  16. OLDNEWBIE

    OLDNEWBIE State of Flux Well-Known Member

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    My car keys are usually laying around in plain sight with the kiddos running in and out.
    My guns are secure out of sight. I don't know why I'm more lax with my auto because I "borrowed" the car when I was underage long ago as well as played with dads gun! He never knew. I also was always at his power tools as well.

    My single mom neighbor back in FL was standing between the garage and her car once while her brats were in the car trying to start it with the keys! She didn't even have the sense to take the cell from her ear and move away while yelling at them to give the keys back. Just another average day to her.

    I voted maybe.

    A loaded gun lying around in plain view of young kids, YES

    Older kids (14 or so) who have been taught gun safety and have used them for sport responsibly and then decide to get the guns without permission and do a crime, MAYBE

    Every case is different
     
  17. willseeker

    willseeker N. Portland. Well-Known Member

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    It's a definite, maybe.
    Yes, I lock up my firearms…but I don't lock up my knives, forks and God forbid, spoons!
    Well, the last one was sarcastic.
    Injury can be inflicted with a number of weapons beyond guns.
    Our society, jumps at the opportunity to vilify firearms…except shotguns, right Biden?
     
  18. Chee-to

    Chee-to Oregon Well-Known Member

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    I ask my self "what has changed since I was a kid ?" Like I said in another thread, what has happened to our society, our culture, when this is the only solution for a kid's problems ?
     
  19. The Heretic

    The Heretic Oregon Well-Known Member

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    Maybe.

    It depends on a lot.

    My child is an adult. I bought her and her husband self-defense handguns for XMas one year. So of course it depends on age.

    Pretty much it depends on a lot of other circumstances too. If the results of the crimes are egregious enough you can pretty much count on being sued into oblivion by the victims of the crime, and I would not be surprised if insurance that covers such circumstances would be hard to find and expensive to purchase.

    I would tend towards the "yes" answer if there was even a hint of negligence on the part of the parent - e.g., they were negligent about securing the firearm if they did not wish for the child to have access to it.
     
  20. etrain16

    etrain16 Oregon Bronze Supporter Bronze Supporter

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    So the news today is the shooter was a 15-year-old kid with an AR-15 he got from home. According to the report, the gun was properly secured, but the kid defeated the security.

    So going back to my comment yesterday - if the parents took the proper steps with their firearms, and the kid managed to defeat them, should the parents be held responsible? Still other factors to consider such as whether he had a history of mental illness and, if he did, whether guns should even be in the house, but at least one question has been answered - the gun was secured.