Many states have adopted laws that make it a crime for adult gun owners to allow children to access or possess their firearms, particularly when they are used to injure. In some cases, these laws are intended to reduce violent crime among youths.
At least 21 states and the District of Columbia have child-access laws that deal with negligent storage of firearms. Here are the details for those states:
— California: It is a crime to allow a child to gain access to a loaded handgun that he or she then carries to a public place, brandishes in a threatening manner or uses to injure someone. Penalties are greater if someone dies or suffers serious injury as a result of the child's access.
— Colorado: A person commits a felony if he or she intentionally, knowingly or recklessly provides a handgun to any person under age 18.
— Connecticut: A person is liable for "criminally negligent storage of a firearm" if he or she fails to safely store a gun and a person under age 16 obtains the firearm and causes injury or death.
— Delaware: It is a crime to intentionally or recklessly store or leave a loaded firearm within the reach or easy access of a minor, if the minor obtains the firearm and uses it to inflict serious physical injury or death.
— District of Columbia: A person can be charged with "criminally negligent storage of a firearm" for keeping a gun in a way that a minor is likely to gain access to it without permission. If the minor causes injury or death with an unsecured weapon, the violator can face up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
— Florida: It is illegal to store or leave a loaded firearm where a person under age 16 is likely to gain access to it and later displays it in a public place or in a rude, careless, angry or threatening manner.
— Georgia: Parents can be charged if they know of a minor's unlawful possession of a handgun and fail to make reasonable efforts to prevent it. Parents also are prohibited from intentionally, knowingly or recklessly furnishing, or permitting a minor to possess, a handgun if they are aware of a "substantial risk" the minor will use it to commit a felony.
— Hawaii: A person is guilty of "criminally negligent storage of a firearm" if they do not store the gun in a locked box or other secure manner, and a minor obtains it as a result. It's classified as a misdemeanor.
— Illinois: It is illegal for people to leave firearms unlocked and accessible to minors under the age of 14 if they have reason to believe the child is likely to gain access to the firearm and uses it to cause death or great bodily harm.
— Iowa: It is a serious misdemeanor to allow minors to obtain unsecured loaded firearms that they exhibit in public places or use to cause injury or death.
— Kentucky: Kentucky prohibits any person from intentionally, knowingly or recklessly providing a handgun to a minor or permitting a minor to possess a handgun, except in limited situations.
— Maryland: Under the law, a person "may not store or leave a loaded firearm in a location where the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child would gain access" to it.
— Massachusetts: Owners are required to store their guns in locked containers or other safety devices, and may not keep them in places where people under age 18 might gain access to them.
— Minnesota: Owners must take reasonable action to secure their firearms to prevent children from accessing them. A person can be charged with child endangerment for putting a minor in a situation likely to harm the child's physical health or cause the child's death as a result of access to a loaded firearm.
— Nevada: People are prohibited from aiding or knowingly permitting a child to handle or possess any firearm without their parents' approval and presence. The penalty rises to a felony if an individual is aware of a substantial risk that the child will use the firearm to commit violence.
— New Hampshire: A person can be charged with "negligent storage of firearms" if a child gains access to a loaded firearm that is used in a reckless or threatening manner, to commit a crime or is negligently discharged.
— New Jersey: A person who fails to store a loaded firearm in a locked box or other secure location can be charged with a misdemeanor if a minor gains access.
— North Carolina: Parents can be charged with a misdemeanor if a minor in their home gains access to a firearm and takes it to school, exhibits it in a public place, causes injury or death, or uses it to commit a crime. It also is a misdemeanor to permit a child under age 12 to access or possess any firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, without parental consent.
— Rhode Island: Owners who allow children to access loaded firearms that are used to cause injury can be charged with criminal storage of a firearm. Parents of children who are injured or die in unintentional shootings will be prosecuted only if they were grossly negligent.
— Texas: The owner can be charged if a minor gains access to a loaded gun that the owner failed to secure or left in a place where a child could gain access. Penalties are harsher if the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury.
— Virginia: State law prohibits anyone from recklessly leaving a loaded, unsecured firearm in a manner that endangers the safety of any child under the age of 14.
— Wisconsin: Anyone who recklessly stores or leaves a loaded firearm within reach or easy access of a child under age 14 commits a misdemeanor if the child discharges the gun and harms anyone or possesses it in a public place.
Source: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.