Noelle Aston Shawver (courtesy idahostatejournal.com)

TTAG reader RA came across the story Death of 5-year-old girl in accidental shooting by another 5-year-old brings misdemeanor charge against local fireman at idahostatejournal.com. Here’s his response:

I hate to call Mr. Lish an idiot, but he was when he didn’t secure his guns. There are a few people here in town who argue that the trauma of knowing you caused a child to die should be punishment enough in this case. I can understand that argument. My wife and I have a daughter with cancer and another daughter who is severely mentally and physically handicapped. There has been a handful of times when we were not sure if the girls were going to make it through the night and the grief was almost unbearable . . .

Just knowing that your little girl might die was traumatizing, so I can only imagine the trauma knowing you caused the accidental death of a child. The whole thing is a terrible tragedy….however, tragedy or not there is absolutely no excuse for not taking proper measures to secure your firearms–especially if little kids are in the house. I’m sure Mr. Lish has suffered immensely and most likely will for a long time to come. However, actions have consequences and justice does have to be served.

Agree?

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80 Responses to Question of the Day: Prosecute Irresponsible Gun Owners for Criminal Negligence Leading to Homicide?

  1. Its a horrible thing that happened and the guy was probably partly to blame for the thing. However, what punishment could be worse than losing a child? I think he has suffered enough and piling it on more is just morally disgusting. Like I said, there is most likely some form of negligence going on here, but it would be like prosecuting a parent who was driving and got into an accident that killed their kid in the back seat. Could they have done something to change it? Probably. Does it do anyone any good to pile on the punishment for a grieving mother or father? Not at all.

    • The act and the punishment are separate in our justice system. Get rid of asinine minimum sentences, and THAT’S when a judge can (assuming they were guilty of the criminal charge) can take the totality of circumstance into account, and determine what – if any – punishment is appropriate.

    • It wouldn’t be like an auto accident at all. Really, there are accidents, and then there are accidents. What matters in the law is the degree of culpability.

      With negligence, you’re talking about someone who ought to be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that the circumstances exist or the result will occur. His failure to perceive that risk is a gross deviation from normal standards of care. That’s much more and worse than a twist of fate fatality on the freeway.

      • “That’s much more and worse than a twist of fate fatality on the freeway.”

        Except most traffic fatalities are not “twist of fate” at all. Most often, there is a clear “cause” directly linked to bad driving if not outright violation of a traffic law on someone’s part.

        They might be twist of fate in terms of who gets killed, but not in terms of causality of the event.

        • You’re right. The twist of fate refers to the confluence of factors, including one or more person’s identifiable error, resulting in a particular fatality on the road.

          Still, the relevant frame of reference is the normal standard of care and the degree of one’s deviation from it. Every day, millions of people fail to signal a lane change, with zero injury to anyone. Sometimes, someone fails to signal a lane change (or commits some other routine traffic offense) and causes a fatal crash. Based on the frequency of routine offenses and rarity of fatal outcomes, such offenses don’t normally rise to the level of gross deviation from normal standard of care. They’re just basic screwups and don’t normally warrant criminal charges. Civil liability? Oh hell yes!

          Now, driving drunk is a gross deviation from normal standard of care. Actually, it’s a reckless disregard of that standard, so you can expect a charge of manslaughter, not just negligent homicide, for causing a fatality under such circumstances.

          Negligent discharges of firearms are more serious than failing to signal a lane change, though, even considering cases resulting in a fatality. A fatal ND entails multiple errors, for starters. Any ND, which is by definition unexpected and uncontrolled, has a vastly elevated risk of injury over a typical traffic offense. That’s what makes such deviations substantial and unjustifiable and worthy of criminal charges, and wholly distinct from most traffic accidents.

          Ubiquitous innocuous traffic offenses, on the other hand, are proof of their minor error status and proximity to normal standards of care.

          Further proof, if any is needed, resides in the relative punishments. Basic traffic offenses are class C misdemeanors. Pay a couple hundred bucks by mail and get a few points on your license. An ND, even without any injury to a person, can be a felony.

      • So if we are to assume that there was some type of gross negligence by putting his daughter at risk, would the state bring charges against this man who (should be) grieving? In addition, i think it is worth pointing out Chip’s point below my own. What else would be under the same chopping block then? Someone forgets or doesn’t buy a cover for their pool and someone dies as a result of drowning? What about if someone left their keys in the ignition and someone stole their car and committed manslaughter with it? What if a window is left open and a toddler falls through it? There are ways that people are killed in the home due in some part to negligence every year but we rarely see any form of prosecution come out of it. Usually its more of a learning point and everyone in the community becomes more aware as a result.

        • The state does indeed bring charges in cases where their child dies from a gun the parent negligently left available. As for grieving, Texas law mandates that no such arrest may be made in the seven days following the death, to allow for grieving and funeral arrangements.

        • What about a defense of “my wife left that gun there.” Or that window open, whatever. We have to recall, as we scream for blood, that an unintentional act placing one parent in prison for 10-20 years, means the other children in the house have one less parent and a lot less income. Perhaps they should then get free money? Imprisoning people for mistakes is a goal we should get right down to, just as soon as we are done with actual criminals, which we have not yet started.

  2. I would say yes, but then I have to ask: what of non-firearms related negligence in the home that also leads to homicide? Are swimming pool owners charged criminally when a child drowns in the pool? Are home owners charged criminally when a child finds and drinks a bottle of Drano, and dies? Are home owners charged when a child falls down a set of stairs in the home, and dies?

      • That’s likely due to the specifics of the case. Leave a kid in a carseat on a 90 degree day while you’re in a bar having a few cold ones?

        My x brother in law thought nothing of leaving my 4yo niece in his car in the parking lot of his favorite bar while he got a snootful and then drove home with her.

        Kids in car seats should be case specific.

    • Yes, good points all. I would say that someone should at least be subject to civil action if a child is harmed in an easily preventable accident of any kind, but it was the man’s own child who was hurt. I suppose the child who pulled the trigger will suffer because of this, and that might be grounds for action. Regardless, in this particular case, the criminal case seems more like a political statement than anything.

      Correction, it was not Lish’s daughter who died. That changes things.

    • Chip, I agree with your analysis. The entire problem ought to be approached from a common perspective: Negligent Custody or Supervision of a Minor. If you are the custodial parent/guardian/babysitter then you have a duty. If you allow a minor to occupy premises that you control then you have a duty. Breach of that duty could be made a misdemeanor by a State’s legislature.

      The duty is not different in character according to the nature of the danger. Provisions to carry out that duty will differ according to the nature of the danger. We can’t erect fences around guns; nor can we lock pools in safes.

      The extent to which a legislature intrudes into the life of the family or its home ought to be proportional to the extent of the danger. Pool control in Alaska is going to be different from pool-control in Florida. Similarly, securing guns is going to be much different in Montana then it is in NYC. In Montana, guns are so ubiquitous that the only practical approach is to teach gun safety to children at a very early age. Then, secure guns when there are children around who are of an age that they can operate a gun but not yet understand gun safety instruction. Life-long residents of NYC will be unable to understand this.

      Only when voters understand that the safety rules they are advocating are equally aimed at their lawnmowers and laundry detergent will they “get it”. That may well be worth PotG supporting negligence laws so as to ensure a seat at the table when the language is drafted such as to target the adults not the tools.

    • Let’s keep going down this road a bit further.

      Studies indicate quite well what the outcomes are of children raised in fatherlesss homes. So… let’s take this criminal negligence on the part of the parent to the ultimate outcome: When are we going to charge single mothers with criminal negligence for having children without a father in the home? Especially the feral male youth who turn to gangs and street predation as the grow into their teenage years – that’s quite well proven to be a result of single, negligent parenting.

        • Because the women have the ultimate power/authority to determine whether or not there is a child. The father’s involvement was limited to about the first 10 minutes, and after that he’s pretty much out of the legal picture.

          That’s part of what women demanded, right? Complete reproductive rights? Well, they got them. And in so obtaining them, they now have the complete responsibility for what happens afterwards.

        • DG,

          You’ve got a point, but what the women’s libbers really want is equality when it’s convenient and something else when it isn’t.

          Case in point: If a woman at our academy does 45 push ups in a minute, she gets a higher PT score than a man who does 45 push ups in a minute. Still. In 2015. And I don’t seem to hear any complaints from the women who “want equality” regarding the obvious favoritism.

    • What matters is what the relevant standard of care is and how closely your actions align with it.

      Parents are charged all the time for criminally negligent homicide. Two Houston electricians were so charged in 2013 when the light at the hotel pool they’d miswired shocked swimmers and killed one.

      If you’re supervising your kid and he manages to inhale a gallon of water, he may well die despite your immediate first aid attempt and summoning of an ambulance. There shouldn’t be criminal charges then, because you were doing everything right but a bad thing still happened.

      Now, if you’re drunk and head on down to the liquor store for a refill, leaving your small child home alone to fall into the pool, then you’re criminally negligent. You didn’t exercise a reasonable standard of care.

    • I am with Chip. Treat everyone the same regardless of how the child harmed themselves or how someone harmed the child. The method is irrelevant.

      • The methods themselves may be irrelevant, but the expected standards of care associated with each item (pool, gun, etc.) are different. It is deviations from the proper standard of care that determines criminality, not the means, per se. That’s why different means correlate with different legal outcomes.

    • Yes, non-gun related negligent deaths are very often prosecuted. Obviously there is – or should be – discretion by the DA to take circumstances into account. I’m completely fine with such prosecutions. What matters is that the law is applied fairly and not as a means of gun control.

      Don’t forget, there is also civil litigation available, as well. Again, that is just. If your negligence damages someone’s property or does real harm, you are responsible for making it right.

      • I am postponing final judgment, here, waiting for the day when a parent is prosecuted for the death of a child killed by home invaders, because he did not have a gun to defend that child.

        • You know something? That would be a very interesting epidemiological study. Rather than deaths due TO guns, deaths do do not having a gun. Or due to restrictive laws. I would bet a valid and statistical model could be developed.

        • Very interesting idea. I wonder how it might be implemented.

          A first crude thought occurs to me. Suppose we poured through the postings on DGUs and Should-have-been-a-DGU on TTAGs.

          First, figure out what statistics might be teased-out of the information available. Number of attackers; number of victims. Victim numbers by adult/minor and for adults, by sex. Who lived; who died. Defense by gun; by other means. How many perps were killed or captured at the scene; how many were wounded and captured later (e.g., because they had to seek medical attention or left a trail of blood). How many got away after being defended-against/been un-opposed.

          Then, work-up the stats. There will be some holes; i.e., a particular datum isn’t available; however, it might be recovered in some cases based on the date and place reported in the TTAG article and further / subsequent google searches.

          We could probably never be sure that our sample was statistically representative of the universe of cases. I’m not sure how much that would matter politically. We could have a database of incidents and characteristics along with the underlying social-interest story. Put that on-line and promote it. Anyone interested in the issue of DGU is free to study the summary data and drill into the underlying incidents to validate the correctness of the tabulations. The reader can read the stories for the human interest impact and reach whatever conclusion she reaches.

          Whether it was a completely-successful / partially-successful DGU its hard to conclude that the outcome would have been better without the gun in the hand of the defender. If it was a Should-have-been-DGU it’s hard to conclude that the situation would have been worse if the defender had a gun.

  3. I think “suffered enough” is second only being “too old” in the pantheon of bullshit excuses for not punishing someone who has committed a crime. youngung21 there is particularly off base as it was not the fireman’s child who was killed.

    • Agreed. Our laws ought to be designed to serve as a deterrent to bad behavior more-so than as a punishment for having committed the bad behavior. E.g., if society decides that cars should be maintained to certain standards (functioning breaks and lights) then the idea is to coerce the relatively negligent among us to adhere to those standards. We shouldn’t rely on inspecting cars involved in accidents to see if the cause of the accident could be attributable to bad breaks or burned-out lights.

      • ” Our laws ought to be designed to serve as a deterrent to bad behavior more-so than as a punishment for having committed the bad behavior.”

        For the fifty-gazillionth time…NO NO NO NO NO.

        Laws CAN’T be what you are asking for. It is impossible in a functioning society…well, unless your society is simply premised on one group of people (those getting THEIR laws passes) controlling others.

        Laws, or the legal “system,” form one of the “institutions” of a society. These institutions sit on top of a societies common moral framework…the term used in sociology is “values” which is explicitly defined as “consensus of belief regarding right and wrong.”

        Laws REFLECT values, and therefore have PRECISELY NOTHING to do with determining behavior. The ONLY role laws have is to define punishments in the event that social values are violated.

        The classic example given is murder. Generally speaking, as a society, we don’t commit murder because we “value” human life….NOT because it is “against the law.” Our murder laws serve only to codify punishments when an action violating that common belief occurs.

        It is precisely the idiotic notion that laws “should be designed to determine behavior” that has gotten our legal system so screwed up.

        The short version is “You CANNOT legislate morality.” You cannot codify in “law” what people should belief is the right way or wrong way to behave…that HAS to come from the belief system underpinning the legal system and all other social institutions (such as religion, education, marriage/family, etc).

        • I genuinely appreciate the sentiments you have expressed. However, I am not completely sold.

          Suppose we decided that murder should be punished as severely as possible; say, by the death of 1,000 cuts. That sort of law would punish the culprit. Conversely, our legislatures (with the consent of their constituents) might decide that a prison sentence of 10 years to life ought to be sufficient to deter the bad behavior; if it’s to be deferred in a particular case. Which approach will our society choose?

          Traffic safety is a concern that is important to our society. As negligent as I might be; I’ll probably keep my brakes in proper repair and replace burned-out lightbulbs on my car. Someone less safety-minded than I may neglect such maintenance.

          Different legislatures are apt to look at car maintenance in different ways. In one State the legislature may be satisfied that their constituents are pretty uniformly responsible and will maintain their cars well-enough. Another State’s legislature may reach a different conclusion; particularly if their accident data indicates that car maintenance is often neglected and often the source of accidents. I, personally, wouldn’t object to the latter’s decision to require an annual inspection sticker. Might be implemented better or worse; but, if implemented well-enough, then I’m OK with it.

          Different societies are going to reach different conclusions. The people of different States or different municipalities within a State will reach different conclusions. So long as such legislative bodies do a good job in balancing the interest of their constituents then they can live with the laws they pass.

          The foregoing opinion is subject, of course, to the idea that there are some rights that the larger society regard as fundamental our our system of ordered liberty. Among these are freedom of speech and the right of self-defense.

          In the context of this discussion, I don’t advocate that government dictate how a person must secure their pools or guns. That they be held responsible for an innocent person’s injury in a preventable accident is permissible. Society may decide to send this message with respect to pools, guns and chemicals but refrain from enumerating lawn mowers or knives. I’m OK with this; you are not.

          There is a political aspect of this debate. What can we sell to the voters in our nation, State (municipality)? Suppose we were in Florida where the homes often have pools and there are a lot of kids. Could we get our fellow voters to agree that pool owners should not be compelled to secure their pools from children wondering onto their property and drowning? Will we convince them that their homeowner’s insurance will cover the tort for allowing the hazard to exist?

          Perhaps Floridians are overwhelmingly convinced that anyone who owns a pool can jolly well build a fence and keep it locked. In such a political environment we are apt to loose credibility for the rest of our agenda if we insist that pool owners must not be deprived of the liberty to keep their pools open to neighborhood children at peril only to lawsuits after a child drowns.

  4. What Chip says above, plus this:

    Did the owner actually break any firearms-related laws? If yes, then charge him with that. If no, then charge him only if he would have been in an equivalent circumstance with something else as the cause of death. (Chip’s bottle of Drano left out on a counter, perhaps?)

    • The point is that any such laws are unconstitutional on their face. Leaving a gun unsecured is no more dangerous than leaving bleach and ammonia unsecured. Prosecuting one and not the other is a blatant breach of he 2nd amendment.

    • That’s a terrible approach, which will only encourage the enactment of more “safe storage” laws.

      Whether or not leaving a firearms unsecured in one’s home is a negligent act should be fact-specific. We don’t want a one size fits all approach. What works for a single adult male living in the country does not work for a family with small kids in the city. We expect our fellow firearms owners to be responsible – and when they aren’t, they should be subject to the full weight of the law. If there are kids around, or there is a reasonable expectation that kids may be around, then guns should be locked up or on the hip. If the gun is out for cleaning or repair, then all ammo and mags should be secured so that IF you are called away from cleaning or tinkering with said firearms by a phone call or emergency with another kid, etc., then all that is unsecured is a lump of inert metal, wood and/or polymer.

  5. Define proper measures.

    Kids open safes all day long. Trigger locks can be busted with no tools at all.

    Trigger locked and jammed in a safe your kid gets a hold of it and blows his best friends head off. Still negligence? Some would say simply owning a firearm is a negligent act and cause to remove your children for the home. Yeah, give those people more power. That’ll work really well.

    On the running gag that is justice, who is being served exactly by locking the guy up? His wife? The dead kid? What purpose does it serve? The concept of justice is right up there with common sense on the bullshit meaningless buzzword scale.

    • If you 5 year old is opening your gun safe then (1) get a better gun safe, (2) your kid isn’t actually five, or (3) it’s time to put the kid into a circus act.

      You can argue the corner cases all day long, but this isn’t one of them.

  6. A gun is far less dangerous than other things people routinely leave lying around the house. How many people store bleach and ammonia in the same closet? How many people make sure to childproof all their medications?

    Simple fact is that guns are no different than any of the above examples. They are no more or less dangerous and if a kid and his buddy chugging drano does not get a parent charged, why should a gun make any difference. (Fun fact, far more kids die from household poisonings than from accidental shootings, even when you normalize for only a 40% household gun ownership rate.)

  7. The most wise thing to do is to keep the children secured. They will get into stuff if you let them. As a former child myself I can personally vouch for this.

  8. Based on the circumstances presented in the story of this particular case, it appears firefighter Lish is getting away fairly lightly if all he is being charged with is “misdemeanor injury to a child”.

    If you aren’t carrying them on your person, secure your weapons where they cannot be accessed by anyone you don’t personally hand them to. That should be SOP in every case, kids in play or not. You do NOT want ANYONE having access to your firearms without your consent and supervision.

    THAT piece of ‘common sense’ is too often overlooked.

  9. What about requiring all parents single or married, of small children, must keep their guns in a safe, or stand alone locked box, with finger print recognition required for opening.
    Of course, small children must be taught to not touch guns, however, there are time when the temptation to “fondle” or examine said gun is just too irresistible.
    The big problem here, is that, who is going to determine at what age the child is responsible enough, that these safeguards are not needed.

    • The problem with any specific requirement is that it need not prove successful. And, the bar will always be set too low or too high.

      The proof-of-the-pudding is in preventing an accident. If a gun owner succeeds then I don’t much care how he succeeds. Nor should society.

      In my own case, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – my father could have done to successfully prevent me from accessing guns from toddlerhood. He would have succeeded by putting his shotguns in a safe with a combination lock; but, his safe wasn’t large enough. Any other measure I would have overcome. What worked, in my case, was that all guns were always unlocked and free for me to play with. Ammunition was stored in a cabinet (at toddler-level) 20 feet away from the guns. I could play with guns to my heart’s content with no one saying a word to me; however, I was always in-public with my father or one of his employees always in the vicinity.

      I’m suspicious of cheap gadgetry and tin boxes. Look for the YouTube videos by people who have demonstrated how easily they can be defeated. I’m also suspicious of gun locks which are also vulnerable to being defeated. E.g., my son learned to pick tumbler locks. Personally, I use a strong iron box with a push-button combination lock.

      Legislators will set the bar low as “good enough” and children will defeat the low bar. Parents will assume since they met the low bar they have done well-enough. Alternatively, legislators will set the bar high enough to exclude all but the 1% from the cost of storing their guns. The adequacy of the gun storage solution will be used to harass lawful gun owners. (E.g., a UK gun owner lost his rights because he failed to close a padlock on his gun chest firmly enough to snap the lock closed. He failed a routine inspection and the lock was found to be NOT-locked.)

      If we are to approach 100% success at securing our guns it will be by individual initiative promoted by self-regulation. I.e., our organizations (NRA, blogs, instructors) will continue to advance the state-of-the-art of best practices. We, as users will learn from the foregoing and find the best solution that fits our personal circumstances. In a lot of cases, that will be commercial gun safes; in other cases, it will be something else.

    • This suggestion is not much different than requiring the same parents to own smart guns. How about no thanks. It is also much more problematic than determining age requirements for securing firearms. Picking an arbitrary one size fits all age limit is a non- issue. It is a common practice and has already been done specifically with regards to securing firearms in some states.

      What you are suggesting is requiring a technology that is not cheap and prone to failure. I have some experience using expensive units that still fail from wet fingers that have wrinkled, fresh injury, dirt, etc. Because some people are not responsible everyone else needs to have further financial costs required to own a firearm and then increase the chance they won’t be able to access it when needed? Doesn’t get my vote.

    • Gunr, the “why not” is that it is not government business how I store my guns. Personally, if I had small kids, I would lean much more toward having a semi with an empty pipe than having any kind of safe, especially one such as you describe, which requires a live battery to open. When a kid is old enough to operate the slide on any semi that I’ve ever played with, that kid is old enough to learn firearm basics.

  10. What’s “criminal negligence”?

    In Washington, the definition is:

    CRIMINAL NEGLIGENCE. A person is criminally negligent or acts with criminal negligence when he or she fails to be aware of a substantial risk that a wrongful act may occur and his or her failure to be aware of such substantial risk constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise in the same situation.

    If someone acts with criminal negligence and a person dies as a result, that’s manslaughter in the second degree.

    So, then, what would our hypothetical “reasonable person” do? The standard “with you, or in a safe” seems quite reasonable, but then there are a lot of things that are potentially harmful that we don’t apply any controls to at all. Why is the “reasonable person” so lax about those hazards, which are often much more prevalent? Over application of the standard seems like a good way to pack the prisons full of otherwise law-abiding people.

  11. This is how California deals with the issue:

    § 25100. Criminal storage of firearm accessible to child; elements of crime

    (a) Except as provided in Section 25105, a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm in the first degree” if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
    (1) The person keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under the person’s custody or control.
    (2) The person knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian, or that a person prohibited from possessing a firearm or deadly weapon pursuant to state or federal law is likely to gain access to the firearm.
    (3) The child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to the child or any other person, or the person prohibited from possessing a firearm or deadly weapon pursuant to state or federal law obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to himself or herself or any other person.
    (b) Except as provided in Section 25105, a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm in the second degree” if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
    (1) The person keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under the person’s custody or control.
    (2) The person knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian, or that a person prohibited from possessing a firearm or deadly weapon pursuant to state or federal law is likely to gain access to the firearm.
    (3) The child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes injury, other than great bodily injury, to the child or any other person, or carries the firearm either to a public place or in violation of Section 417, or the person prohibited from possessing a firearm or deadly weapon pursuant to state or federal law obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes injury, other than great bodily injury, to himself or herself or any other person, or carries the firearm either to a public place or in violation of Section 417.
    (c) Except as provided in Section 25105, a person commits the crime of “criminal storage of a firearm in the third degree” if the person keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under the person’s custody or control and negligently stores or leaves a loaded firearm in a location where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian, unless reasonable action is taken by the person to secure the firearm against access by the child.

    This section therefore defines three different crimes, first, second and third degree criminal storage of a firearm. Section (c) is the generic section applicable when a child gains possession of a firearm but no one is injured. Section (b) applies when there is injury “other than great bodily injury,” and Section (a) applies when there is great bodily injury.
    A prosecutor has, by statute, great discretion in deciding which section to charge, and which penalty to pursue. Moreover, it is the express Legislative intent that charges be pursued “only in those instances in which the parent or guardian behaved in a grossly negligent manner or where similarly egregious circumstances exist”:

  12. Yes. In Texas pool owners are held liable for any kid drowning in their pool. Especially if they have no fence around it with a locked gate.

  13. Sure, if we are also going to prosecute people for failing to lock up their prescription meds, chemicals under the sink, gasoline in the garage…

  14. What about kitchen knives? Our kitchens are filled with them, open and accessible. Same scenario. Why don’t we hear all about kids stabbing other kids with kitchen knives or cutting their wrists with kitchen knives? Is it possible that their simple ubiquity makes them invisible? Is it the novelty of guns and children’s unfamiliarity with them that causes these incidents to happen? Is the anti-gun messaging our kids are subjected to on a daily basis fueling this fascination? My Dad never locked up any guns. They were always unloaded but the ammo was on the top shelf of his closet. He taught me gun safety at the age of 9. Wouldn’t it be better, instead of demonizing guns, for our schools to teach basic firearm safety starting in kindergarten?

  15. Completely agree. I fully support laws like the responsible firearm storage laws (only so long as they’re simple, not draconian). I would also say, yes, justice served, but that would set a dangerous precedent where a psychopathic parent could leave guns around the house simply because they want to get rid of their kids in a way that makes them only negligent and not contributing to murder. So in this case, I would want its status to be “justice served”, but until/unless a jury states this, I don’t think it’s over.

    • I fully support laws like the responsible firearm storage laws (only so long as they’re simple, not draconian).

      Please provide an example of a simple, non-draconian “responsible firearm storage” law that accomplishes its purpose (and that purpose being a compelling State interest), without causing substantial burden on law-abiding people?

      • Chip – Precisely. This isn’t about forcing some form of one size fits all government mandated placebo dreamed up by a group of people who have never owned a firearm. Life IS dangerous, and in the grand scheme of things, gun accidents aren’t even a bb crater on a speed bump. Yes, each is a tragedy. But with numbers like this we don’t need legislation. If the government has a compelling interest, then spend a few tax dollars and put out some PSA’s about Eddie Eagle type gun safety. With 80,000,000 gun owners and 300,000,000 guns the accident rate is so low the FAA would laugh at trying to fix it. And those folks are in the business of cost benefit analysis.

  16. Only if you’re gonna prosecute doctors, dentists, mechanics, engineers, lawyers, politicians, pool owners, etc. for any and ALL criminal negligence leading to death.
    OH, and police officers, pilots, bus drivers, heavy equipment operators , janitors, radio personalities, welders, grocery store managers, lobbyists, zookeepers, dog owners…
    I’m sure I left someone out, but you get the point. It’s either CRIMINALLY negligent, or it’s not.

  17. Whatever-don’t get your kid shot. It seems almost everyone on TTAG is big on rights(as they should be). No sympathy here…

  18. Only when people are accountable for their weapons, will people be responsible. This is the same as an ND – it is not an accident if you violate weapon safety rules.
    Showing that gunowners are responsible also takes the wind out if anti-gunner sails.
    Prosecute the man!

  19. I’m against safe storage laws because I don’t believe they have any effect upon the people they are targeted towards. I believe guns should be stored safely, especially if you have children or have any reasonable expectation of children visiting. I would store my guns safely regardless of the laws on the books in my state. The type of person who has children and leaves a loaded gun with one in the pipe lying around unsecured isn’t going to go: “Gosh Golly its a misdemeanor to leave my guns lying around unsecured unsupervised and fully loaded. I better buy me a safe!”. This type of person will either be completely unaware of the law and even if they knew wouldn’t care. What’s a misdemeanor charge compared to losing a child?

    • I think that “self-regulation” will prove to be the most effective. Suppose trainers emphasize safe-storage. Gun stores ask “do you have a gun safe?”. Everybody at the range and gun club is discussing best-practices for safe-storage. Against such a backdrop, then signs in gun stores reading: ‘Warning: State law makes it a . . . ‘ can all help.
      I’d like to see the demographics underlying a statistically-meaningful sample of these few hundred annual accidents. Where do they happen? What are the background circumstances? Suppose we found that most of them occur in the inner-city and that the gun owner is a prohibited-person. Of the remainder, suppose we found that the gun owner did not have a “gun-culture” background. That would tell us where we would need to focus our attention to further reduce these accidents.

      I would be very much surprised if the majority of accidents occurred as a consequence of the negligence of gun owners who are either rich in personal experience or the product of multiple-generations of gun ownership.

  20. IF you can make the case that bad handling was the proximate cause you have to seriously look at some form of negligent manslaughter. Sorry but we can’t be handing out “mulligans” on this.

    Ray

  21. Cars, pools, electrical appliances. Can not be compared to guns. Guns were invented, and are designed for killing.

    • What utter nonsense. Knives were designed for killing. Tomahawks were designed for killing. Stunners for slaughterhouses were designed for killing. Target guns were designed for target shooting. The design of the artifact has nothing whatsoever with the good or evil intent of the user.

      Self defense is a satisfactory excuse for killing under our legal system. If you buy a gun with the intent on using it to kill another human in a case of self-defense the design of the gun is perfectly consistent with the lawful intended use.

      In any case, the Constitutional right under the 2A exists in dependently of any design of an arms artifact or conceivable use of an arms artifact. It is patently absurd to imagine that the founding and ratifying generation imagined that it would be permissible to ban arms because they were designed to kill; to paraphrase the President of the US, ‘that was the whole idea’.

      • You jumped to a conclusion.
        I am NOT anti-gun. I carry, concealed, and open when I feel like it.
        I am also for Constitutional carry, as in anyone that can physically handle a gun can have one, period. (this includes ex-convicts and felons) Everyone has the right to protect themselves from unjust harm from another individual, in any manner they see fit.

        However, my comment was directed at the argument of using deaths by auto, pools, and appliances, etc. You cannot argue with an anti-gun person if you try to compare these things. They will not listen. Guns were designed for killing the other things are not. So argue all you want, you will LOSE if you try this, because they will not listen..
        That was my point.

        • I apologize for failing to understand where you are coming from. Your 2 or 3 sentence remark didn’t provide sufficient background to understand what you have just explained.

          Frankly, I harbor no delusion of converting a strident Anti. It happens on rare occasion; it’s simply not worth the trouble to try to address them.

          Instead, we need to address the uncommitted voter and the voter who is gun-control-sympathetic. These remain more-or-less open to reason. What we must do is listen to the Anti arguments knowing what they are telling uncommitted/GC-sympathetic voters. Knowing that they spew nonsense such as “guns are designed for killing” we have to be ready to counter those arguments.

          From infancy, toddlerhood, and young-child I was surrounded by lots of artifacts and products of nature that could have killed or injured me. Farm machinery nearly killed my brother and a good friend. I was, very early on, keenly aware of the danger of being killed or injured.

          Of one thing there was never any doubt whatsoever. Guns were inherently dangerous. All anyone had to do was put a shell/cartridge in one and make a mistake. Bang! someone could die. That obvious fact augured for care on everyone’s part, children included.

          Whatever we do to improve safety, the design intention of something is hardly important at all. We all share a common interest in safety; we ought to be working on the issues that will make a difference if we can succeed and work on approaches that can succeed. Such arguments should receive an audience from uncommitted/GC-sympathetic voters.

      • I reject that premise outright. Guns are tools of life not death. The provide food, protection, mental and pysical discipline and help me be aware of my surroundings.

        • That doesn’t change that fact that they are designed to kill.

          No, a firearm is not designed to kill.

          A firearm is designed to propel a projectile using directed gases that result from the combustion of explosive powder.

          The direction and target of that projectile is not determined by the gun, but rather by the person firing the gun. If that projectile is directed at a paper silhouette target or an iron spinner, the firearm functions as designed – with no killing involved. The act of killing is derived from manner in which the firearm is used by the person wielding it. Killing is a matter of intent of the user, and not a matter of design of the tool. Thus, intent to kill is ascribed not to the gun, but rather to the person.

          Saying things like “guns are designed to kill” is FUD hoplophobe speak.

        • Excellent exposition!

          Let’s compare Chip’s argument with respect to guns to the stun device (or, perhaps more accurately, the knife) used in a slaughterhouse. I’ll presume that, since these particular artifacts are designed for industrial use, there is no ambiguity in the mind of the designer as to the primary – no, exclusive – use of these devices. He knows for sure that their ONLY reason for being created is to kill animals in a slaughterhouse.

          Conversely, of the BILLIONS of rounds of all calibers purchased by consumers in the US, how few are purchased with a realistic expectation of being fired for the purpose of harvesting game, killing or injuring a human? Of the millions of guns produced, how many are purchased with a realistic expectation of being so used in actuality. How can we say that the engineer who designed these instruments had as a primary expectation that his users would use them to kill? To the minuscule extent that this expectation were realistic he would have to rely upon the moral integrity of the end user to use in a responsible manner. He could never know whether any particular gun he designed would be used to take a life whether lawfully/UN-lawfully.

        • That doesn’t change that fact that they are designed to kill.

          Oh, and let me add: something like 98% (I could be wrong on the exact percentage) of defensive gun uses don’t result in death. The firearm, when used as designed, acts as a deterrent without being fired (something like 90% of the time), or when discharging the firearm results in non-fatal injury at most.*

          * The estimates vary widely, from 70 – 80% for brandishment only, to 90+% for brandishment+non-injury (i.e. “warning” or missed) shots fired, to 95-98% for brandishment only. The point remains: the vast majority of defensive gun uses do not result in death. And all such occurrences represent a firearm being used as designed.

        • The others have already addressed one part of the argumentt. I’ll also add another.

          Why is there this presumption that it is bad to kill. Life is predicated upon death. For one organism to live, other organisms must die. As moral creatures, yes, murder is certainly wrong. However, that does not make any case to say that all killing is wrong. If fact, it’s not hard to demonstrate that some forms of killing are good and even desirable.

        • You are also correct. If I make a bow and arrow to kill game to feed my family then there is both death and life that are consequences of my use of these artifacts. If I use it to kill those who would attack me and my family then there is both death and life consequences.

          Likewise, if I make an ax to build a home I may none-the-less use it for slaughtering livestock or to protect my family from an attacker. There is no morality in the artifact; only in its use.

          At the extreme, there was no morality in the invention of the atomic bomb. As the US was working on the technology so were the Germans and the Japanese. To say that there was morality in one project and not in another would ignore the real politic in play. To say that the US decision to drop the bomb on Japan is a question worthy of debate; but it is the use of the artifact not the purpose of creating the artifact that is worthy of debate.

  22. Yes, of course he should be charged. As an example to all, that laws apply to firemen, cops, and any one else who fails to apply common-sense, and thus becomes criminally negligent.

    Horrible tragedy, but changing the rules does no good.
    There is already a filtering mechanism built in:
    the local prosecutor decides if its chargeable on its merits, the defendants counsel argues for mercy, mitigating factors, etc

    and the judge decides on sentence, applying his good judgement.

    Failure to uphold the basic laws for negligence, when applied to tools like a firearm,
    only leads to more laws, hysterically called for and passed by nitwit legislators who seek to manage humans by more control from above, trying to regulate the tool itself, which of course, doesnt work.

  23. The fact is with this situation that when it comes to firearms there is a disproportionate sense of causation compared to other accidents. There is no call for parents to be held liable for negligence when leaving car keys unsecured and a car in the hands of a child is every bit as deadly as a firearm. This is an area where we need to be very careful. In the part of the country where I live, if there was a break in at my apartment and my firearm was stolen… My name and address would be in the local paper the next day as yet another example of an ‘irresponsible’ gun owner. While the criminal would be given a pass because although what they did was wrong, their actions are explainable through social justice theory.

  24. I agree with the charge and the reason is, because this kids lost her life. I lost my son 8 months ago to a negligent neighbor who had her pool unsecure for almost three weeks. My three year old son unlocked the door and walked out of the house, and walked over to the neighbor’s pool and drowned. I’m fighting for justice right now for my son, there is no excuse for this. I feel bad for the parents I know how it feels to loose a child. I’ve read this story so many times and I wouldn’t even leave a comment. My heart is broken for the parents and this beautiful baby, but we’re talking about a life gone to soon. I know this dad will never get over this hurt, but the law is the law. I told my husband if we did anything to cause my son’s death in any way we should be prosecuted to the fullest. He was charged with a misdemeanor that was mercy. Someone care enough to not hold him accountable to the fullest exist of the law. It was not his intentions for someone to die, but they did die. I’m praying for that dad and that family that God will give them some peace right now.

    • Sounds like your house was less secure than the neighbor’s pool. Your neighbor isn’t responsible for your son getting out of your house unsupervised – a point I would not make if it didn’t sound like you’re blaming your neighbor for what happened. And I am sorry for your loss.

      • I’m blaming my neighbor for having a pool unsecure for weeks,and it caused the death of my three year old son. I wish I could upload you photos of the pool with no gate murky green water. When my son walked out of the house he was on his property. My son unlocked the door and walked out, something totally out of my control. He was outside 15min. when my husband found him. My neighbor saw my son fall in the pool and left him fighting for his life. She came back when she say the ambulance as if she had no idea of what happened. You say your sorry about my lose but it appears your saying that got what I deserve. To lose your child for something you have no control of is a hell of a price to pay.

        • How was your three year old’s ability to unlock the door to your house and go outside unattended something that was outside of your control?

          I never said that you got what you “deserved.” I merely think that it is wrong to blame your neighbor, who is not responsible for your child being outside your house unattended.

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