This case was just released yesterday in the Division 2 Court of Appeals in Washington. It's a published case and is a big deal for gun owners. I want to make sure you all know about what's going on here. The short version: Basic Facts Defendant Bauer keeps several guns loaded around his house for personal defense. The guns are accessible to children, which he does not have. His girlfriend comes over with her 9 year old son. 9 year old son steals one of Bauer's handguns. 9 year old son brings gun to school. 9 year old son accidentally pulls trigger while at school, injuring classmate. Basic Procedure of Case State charges defendant with 3rd degree assault and unlawful possession of a firearm. At trial (so- not on the appeal, which is what I linked to), the court dismissed the unlawful possession charge. Defendant makes a motion basically saying that his case should be dismissed because there is no way that, even if the facts are true, that he can be found guilty of 3rd degree assault. The trial court denies this motion, so the defendant appeals. The trial cannot continue until the Court of Appeals makes a ruling on whether the case can proceed. -Yesterday, March 8th, Division 2 of the Court of Appeals in WA ruled that the case can proceed. What the State Must Prove: (1) A person is guilty of assault in the third degree if he or she, under circumstances not amounting to assault in the first or second degree, [...] with criminal negligence, causes bodily harm to another person by means of a weapon or other instrument or thing likely to produce bodily harm. (This is RCW 9A.36.031 (1)(d)) The Court's Holding (Short Version- Verbatim) "We have concluded that this case may be tried. We are told that this decision will open the floodgates to charges against innocent parents for the unanticipated criminal acts of their children where the parents' only fault was in failing to totally secure an item that could potentially be dangerous. We do not anticipate such a flood. But if a parent leaves a live hand grenade on the kitchen counter, they could be at risk of criminal prosecution. The reason why a hand grenade could lead to charges and a butcher knife will not is in the state of mind that must be proven that the parents' actions were at least a gross deviation from a normally careful person's conduct. Faced with this high burden, we do not anticipate that prosecutors will be filing charges for failing to secure normal household items such as knives, power tools, and the like." Dissenting Justice's Opinion (Excerpts) Dissenting justice does an excellent job at framing the issue right out of the gate: "I do not downplay the hazard to others by keeping loaded firearms around children or 'the damage done to the injured victim, another child. But even in the face of tragedy, this is a case involving potential criminal liability and imprisonment. As such, we are bound to strictly construe the law, not to stretch it to fit the exigencies of the situation." (Note: I don't have time to outline the legal arguments), but the conclusion is pretty straightforward: "Thus, Washington law permits that, with the appropriate permissions, minors may not only possess but use firearms within the home for self defense, defense of others, and defense of property." "Arguably, the law contemplates that, in order to be useful for self defense purposes, such firearms may need to be readily accessible and operable by a minor, that is, unsecured and loaded." "Thus, the majority's broad imposition of criminal liability for failure to secure a loaded gun kept within the home would conflict with the legislature's express authorization of minors to use firearms within the home for lawful defense purposes." The Justice then goes on to expound on the constitutional right to bear arms: "In sum, Washington law does not prohibit and,t o some extent, the Second Amendment affirmatively protects keeping firearms at home. Washington courts have declined to impose a duty to the general public to secure firearms within the home from theft and subsequent criminal use, recognizing that such a heavy policy question is best addressed to the legislature. And Washington courts have held that, as a matter of law, bare generalizations such as "all minors have a dangerous proclivity when it comes to guns" are insufficient on their own to maintain a civil negligence claim." I think there is enough info in this post to start some great conversation. I'd strongly encourage all Washington residents (specifically those who own firearms) to read this entire opinion as I have only selected portions of it. The court seems to suggest that, even if your firearm is stolen, you can be charged with assault. Whether the jury would convict is a different matter, of course. But think of the possible ramifications of this. Suppose someone steals your firearm and then goes on a shooting spree? If death results, are you going to be responsible? Miscellaneous background info: Here is a little breakdown of the levels of authority (from top down) in the judicial system in Washington: 1. Washington Supreme Court 2. Court of Appeals (Division 1, Division 2, Division 3) Here is a map that breaks down the geographic boundaries of the different divisions. 3. Trial Courts (tons of these, as well as lower courts).