Death of Two-Year-Old Renews Calls for Criminal Charges for Negligently Stored Firearms

September 10th, 2018 by Attorney Dan Carman

Death of Two-Year-Old Renews Calls for Criminal Charges for Negligently Stored Firearms

So far this year in Kentucky, two children have been killed and five injured by firearms that weren’t securely stored, reports the Louisville Courier Journal. Most recently, two-year-old Montreal Dunn from Louisville shot himself and died in what has been ruled an accidental death. In response to this shooting, State Rep. Jim Wayne of Louisville is pushing legislation to require guns to be securely locked in a box or container, by a device or carried by an adult. Not doing so in the presence of children would be a misdemeanor.

The measure was proposed last year but was not passed into law. Under the proposal, unsecured storage of a firearm in the presence of children would be a Class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to ninety days in jail and a fine of up to $250) and a Class A misdemeanor (ninety days to a year in jail and a fine of up to $500) if its use causes physical injury or death.

Current Kentucky law makes intentionally, knowingly and/or recklessly providing a handgun to a child a Class D felony (one to five years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000) if the person knows of a substantial risk that the minor will use the firearm to commit a crime.

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported last year that from 2012 to 2017, at least 36 children shot themselves or another child with a gun in Kentucky. Of these children, 15 died and 21 were wounded.

In Jefferson County, the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office typically charges someone with wanton endangerment for leaving a loaded firearm in a place where it would be accessible to minors, Jeff Cooke, assistant commonwealth’s attorney, told the Courier Journal. He said they have charged people under similar situations as Dunn’s case, but the specific facts in the individual case lead to what, if any, charges are brought. Earlier this year, both parents of an eleven-year-old Bell County boy who accidentally shot his six-year-old sister in the head were charged with wanton endangerment and endangering the welfare of a minor.

Under Kentucky law …

A person is guilty of wanton endangerment in the first degree when, under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life, he wantonly engages in conduct which creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person.

Wanton endangerment is a class D felony.

Guns are in about a third of all American homes where children live, according to a 2008 study in the journal Health Education Research. Of homes with firearms, half of the guns were not secured and a sixth were loaded while they were stored. The National Crime Prevention Council estimates that 1.4 million homes have guns stored in a way that’s accessible to about 2.6 million children.

They also state gun owners have several options to safely store firearms in ways that won’t present a potential harm to children.

  • Trigger locks prevent the trigger from being pulled. There are a number of different designs, from basic key locks to those that need combinations to unlock.
  • Cable locks can be used on most firearms. Most commonly a cable is placed through the barrel, which impedes loading and firing of the gun.
  • Storage cases can be used to store and lock up a firearm. The lock is separate from the case.
  • A lock box is like a small safe designed for storing firearms safely and securely. They are locked by a key, a combination lock or a digital keypad.
  • Locking safes come in different sizes to accommodate long guns and can accommodate handguns as well. They come with a combination lock or a digital keypad.

If you own a gun, avoid the possible criminal charges you may face if it’s not securely stored and a child gains access to it, uses it and harms himself or others. Secure your firearm in a way that it doesn’t pose a danger to others.

If you or a loved one is being investigated for, or charged with, a firearm related crime, contact us today so you can discuss your situation with one of the attorneys at the Lexington, Kentucky-based Carman Law Firm. As criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, experienced representation.