Man helping his daughter shoot gun.

Are Parents Liable if Their Child Takes Their Gun? 

McCready Law Group Jan. 5, 2023

In 2021, the Giffords Law Center ranked California #1 in the country for gun safety. While this is undoubtedly good news, it’s still true that children are committing crimes using guns that they’ve taken from their parents. If this happens to you, you'll need to know the answer to many questions such as, ”What happens if my child committed a crime using my gun?” or “What’s my liability for my child taking my gun?” Parental responsibility laws will vary from state to state, so it’s essential you meet with a qualified criminal defense attorney to understand what may happen. For help in the Cypress Hill, Lakewood, or Long Beach, California area, call to make an appointment with us at the McCready Law Group. 

Liability of Parents  

In general, parents can be held liable for their child’s willful actions while they’re a minor if those actions result in injury, death, or damage to property. This can be in cases of criminal negligence where your actions could be construed to be reckless or dangerous to others. For example, if you know that your child poses a threat to those around them and yet do nothing to stop their potentially harmful actions, you can be found guilty of parental criminal negligence. You may also face charges for civil negligence, which typically involve cases of property damage. 

California’s Parental Responsibility Laws  

California’s laws state that parents or guardians can be held responsible for any “willful misconduct” committed by their child (meaning a minor under the age of 18). This typically means that the child’s actions resulted in the harm or death of another person, or their actions resulted in property damage. Examples of this could be a minor who gets into a car accident while driving their parent’s car, a minor who vandalizes someone else’s property, or a minor who uses their parent’s gun to commit a crime. However, for all charges, there is a liability limit of $25,000, which can be used as reimbursement for things like personal property or medical bills. Notably, this money cannot be used for punitive damages or non-material damages like pain and suffering.  

Gun Storage Laws in California  

Central to concerns over children getting a hold of their parent’s guns and using them to commit a crime is the law surrounding gun storage. California is very strict when it comes to gun storage laws, and if it’s discovered you weren’t in compliance with them, you can face additional criminal negligence charges. It is illegal to keep a gun — loaded or unloaded — in your home or on your property if it is accessible to minors. This means it must be stored or locked in such a way that minors cannot access it. This could include storing ammunition and the firearm in separate places and using a state-approved gun safe or gun lock. 

Possible Parental Consequences  

The possible penalties for a child using a parent’s gun to commit a crime should be taken seriously because they can dramatically affect your family’s future. They can include fines, prison time, and in some cases a court-mandated parenting class. You can also face specific consequences for failing to store firearms correctly. 

Trusted & Experienced Guidance  

If your child has recently been accused of a gun-related crime using a firearm that belonged to you, you need to contact a skilled attorney immediately. From our offices at McCready Law Group in Long Beach, California, we are happy to represent clients throughout the area. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.  

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