KIDS WITH GUNS: WHO IS LIABLE?
Gun owners may be liable for the injuries and deaths that are caused when kids accidentally shoot someone. Of the 265 kid-with-gun shootings reported in 2015, 83 resulted in a death. Forty-one young shooters killed themselves. Forty-two times someone else died from the accidental shooting. More than half (148) of the shootings occurred in the victim’s home. Thirty-one of the accidental shootings were at a friend’s home. The remaining 28 incidences of a child accidentally shooting someone took place at a relative’s home.
Liability of kids playing with guns
Many of the children who accidentally shoot someone are toddlers or young kids who are playing with the firearm. If a child shoots himself or someone else, the gun owner who failed to properly secure the weapon may be held criminally liable. The gun owner may also face a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. Research by Everytown for Gun Safety indicates that 70 percent of accidental shootings by children could have been prevented if the gun had been properly stored and unloaded.
Twenty-eight states and DC hold gun owners criminally liable
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The degree of liability varies by state, but adults who do not properly secure their weapons can be held both criminally and financially liable if their child or another person’s child kills or injures someone with the gun. A 2005 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) found that child access prevention (CAP) laws make a difference. The NBER study reports CAP laws in 10 states saved $37 million in medical costs and prevented 829 gun-related injuries.
Changing societal norms
Ted Alcorn is research director at Everytown for Gun Safety. Alcorn says that new legislation is not enough. He asserts that it is also important that communities, parents, and all gun owners change how they think about the storage of firearms. Individual gun owners must make safe storage of firearms a top priority.
Data on accidental shootings by kids is limited
There is a Congressional rule that prevents the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from conducting any research that could be interpreted as advocating for gun control. Many researchers claim that unintentional gun-related deaths are underreported.
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