Recently, we saw yet another horrible school shooting… the 13th this year. We saw yet another community struggling to understand the why and the how. And as we do so often as New Jersey personal injury lawyers, we saw a society trying to figure out who is to blame.
One of the first questions you hear is, Where did he get the gun? When the shooting is done by a minor, the answer is typically and tragically this: at home. A 2004 study by the U.S. Secret Service and U.S. Department of Education about school shootings found that in more than 65 percent of the cases, the attacker got the gun from home or the home of a relative. Home guns are also the main culprit in accidental shootings by children, which are much more common and every bit as avoidable.
Protecting children is the thrust of Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws, which vary from state to state. Here’s a summary of New Jersey’s CAP regulations:
State Law (N.J. S. A. 2C:58-15) makes it a crime to store a loaded firearm where the person knows, or reasonably should know, that a person under 16 years of age could gain access to it.
It doesn’t matter whether the child actually uses the gun. The simple fact that the child was able to obtain it makes the owner criminally liable and subject to both fines and imprisonment.
Deliberately providing a gun to a minor is punishable by a mandatory minimum prison term of three years without parole.
In addition to criminal penalties, carelessness and negligence on the part of gun owners have also resulted in significant civil actions and hefty penalties.
Despite the potential for heartbreaking violence and the threat of criminal and civil penalties, more than 1.69 million children under 18 continue to live in homes with loaded and unlocked firearms, according to a 2005 report.