Laws dictate safe storage of guns in homes 

Firearms should be stored in a safe, secure, area not accessible to children.
  • Firearms should be stored in a safe, secure, area not accessible to children.

This week's question comes from Tanya W. in South San Francisco, who asks:

Q: "My brother-in-law has three boys, one 10 and two in their early teens. He is a gun enthusiast who has a large collection of handguns and rifles. He says that he is afraid of these recent home invasions that have been on TV, so he keeps a loaded shotgun in his bedroom closet. I won't let my kids go over there because I am afraid. What is the law regarding this kind of thing."

A: Tanya, generally firearms are supposed to be stored in a safe, secure, area not accessible to children. Indeed, California has strong criminal penalties designed to promote safe storage of firearms.

Section 25100 of the California Penal Code states that, with limited exception, 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; and 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.

A person is guilty 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; and 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 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.

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.

Exceptions to Section 25100 is contained within Penal Code Section 25105 when the firearm is locked with a locking device that has rendered the firearm inoperable or the person who keeps a loaded firearm on premises that are under the person's custody or control has no reasonable expectation, based on objective facts and circumstances, that a child is likely to be present on the premises.

Penal Code Section 25110 sets forth the penalties for violation of Section 25100. Criminal storage of a firearm in the first degree is punishable by imprisonment up to three years, by a fine not exceeding $10,000 or by both imprisonment and fine. Criminal storage of a firearm in the second degree is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, by a fine not exceeding $1,000 or by both imprisonment and a fine and criminal storage of a firearm in the third degree is punishable as a misdemeanor.

In addition to criminal penalties, a person who fails to properly secure firearms can be subject to a civil lawsuit which could result in a significant financial judgment against them. But let's face it, Tanya, no criminal penalty or money judgment can undue injury or death so, hand this article to your brother in law and if he doesn't lock up the guns then keep your children far, far away.

Christopher B. Dolan is owner of the Dolan Law Firm. Email questions to help@dolanlawfirm.com.

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