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Child Access Prevention Laws

Child Access Prevention Laws

A child access prevention law (often abbreviated CAP law; also sometimes called a safe storage law) makes it illegal for an adult to keep a gun in a place and manner so that a child can easily access and fire it. Proponents of these laws, such as the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, argue that they are effective at reducing accidental gun deaths among children, since they reduce accessibility and thereby risk. The National Rifle Association has lobbied against such laws, arguing that they are ineffective and infringe on the rights of gun owners to protect their homes. “This poorly thought out legislation is without any consideration for personal circumstances.

It invades people’s homes and forces them to render their firearms useless in a self-defense situation by locking them up.”-National Rifle Association-Institute for Legislative Action on Seattle’s recently passed safe-storage ordinance (NRA-ILA 2018). CAP laws encourage the safe storage of firearms by imposing liability on adults who allow children unsupervised access to guns. Gun safety advocates support CAP laws as a way to limit firearm-related homicides, as well as a way to decrease suicides among minors and the number of children killed by unintentional shootings. Guns in homes pose a clear safety risk, particularly to children. When household guns are not stored safely or securely, the risk of death or injury only increases. Child access prevention laws hold gun owners accountable for the safe storage of firearms, imposing liability for failing to take simple yet important measures to prevent guns from falling into young hands. Easy access to firearms in the home results in high rates of unintentional gun deaths among children, youth suicides, and school shootings. Child access prevention (CAP) laws are an important tool for reducing these child gun deaths. CAP laws encourage the safe storage of firearms by imposing liability on adults who allow children to have unsupervised access to guns.

CAP laws may apply to all firearms, loaded firearms, or handguns only, and some states require that stored firearms include a locking device. Utah does not penalize an adult who recklessly or negligently allows a minor access to a firearm. In Utah, a parent or guardian may not intentionally or knowingly provide a firearm to, or permit the possession of a firearm by, any minor, defined as under age 18, who has been convicted of a violent felony or adjudicated in juvenile court for an offense which would constitute a violent felony if the minor were an adult. The state also prohibits any parent or guardian of a minor, where the parent or guardian knows that the minor is in possession of a firearm, from failing to make reasonable efforts to remove the firearm from the minor’s possession.

Minimum Age to Purchase & Possess a Gun in Utah

Too often, minors have also used their families’ unsecured firearms to intentionally perpetrate violence against others .Utah law provides that no person under age 18 may possess a handgun, sawed-off rifle, sawed–off shotgun, or fully automatic weapon. The state further prohibits any person under 18 years of age from possessing any other firearm (i.e., a rifle or shotgun) unless he or she:
• Has the permission of one’s parent or guardian to have the weapon; or
• Is accompanied by a parent or guardian while in possession of the gun.
Exceptions regarding possession of handguns by minors include any person:
• Firing at lawfully operated target concessions at amusement parks, piers, and similar locations provided the firearms to be used are firmly chained or affixed to the counters;
• In attendance at a hunter’s safety course or a firearms safety course;
• Engaging in practice or any other lawful use of a firearm at an established range or any other area where the discharge of a firearm is not prohibited by state or local law;
• Engaging in an organized competition involving the use of a firearm, or participating in or practicing for such competition;
• Under age 18 who is on real property with the permission of the owner, licensee, or lessee of the property and who has the permission of a parent or legal guardian or the owner, licensee, or lessee to possess a firearm not otherwise in violation of law;
• Who is a resident or nonresident hunter with a valid hunting license or other person who is lawfully engaged in hunting; or
• Traveling to or from any activity described above with an unloaded firearm in one’s possession (except the provision related to target concessions where the firearms must be firmly chained or affixed to the counters).
Any person under 14 years of age in possession of a dangerous weapon shall be accompanied by a responsible adult. An applicant for a concealed firearms permit must be 21 years of age or older. Applicants between the ages of 18 and 20 may apply for a provisional permit that allows the permittee to carry in the state without restriction except for elementary and secondary school campuses. Utah prohibits any person from selling handguns or long guns to a person under age 18 unless the person is accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Legal Definition of Dangerous Weapons on School Property

According to the state code, no one including Utah school kids is allowed to be in possession of any dangerous weapon, firearm or sawed-off shotgun on or around school properties. Possessing a dangerous weapon on or about school premises is a class B misdemeanor. If you decide to take a firearm or sawed-off shotgun onto school property, you’ll probably be charged with a class A misdemeanor. There is an exception to the above law. Someone, such as a school resource officer, who is authorized by the school administrator or who has a legal right to carry such a weapon can be excluded.

Description of State Child Access Prevention Laws

The majority of states have laws designed to prevent children from accessing firearms. The strongest laws impose criminal liability when a minor gains access to a negligently stored firearm. The weakest prohibit persons from directly providing a firearm to a minor. There is a wide range of laws that fall somewhere between these extremes, including laws that impose criminal liability for negligently stored firearms, but only where the child uses the firearm and causes death or serious injury. Weaker laws impose liability only in the event of reckless, knowing or intentional conduct by the adult. States also differ on the definition of “minor” for purposes of preventing access to firearms by children. Laws Imposing Criminal Liability when a Child Gains Access as a Result of Negligent Storage of a Firearm: Fourteen states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, and Texas) have laws that impose criminal liability on persons who negligently store firearms, where minors could or do gain access to the firearm. Typically, these laws apply whenever the person “knows or reasonably should know” that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm. There are a number of variations in these types of laws, including whether the child must use the firearm, and whether the firearm must be loaded. The most significant variations are described below:
• States Imposing Criminal Liability for Allowing a Child to Gain Access: The broadest laws apply regardless of whether the child even gains possession of the firearm. Massachusetts and Minnesota impose liability in circumstances where a child may (Massachusetts) or is likely to (Minnesota) gain access to a firearm. In Hawaii, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, liability exists whenever a child gains access to an improperly stored firearm. In these states, it is not necessary for the child to use the firearm or cause any injury.

• States Imposing Criminal Liability Only if Child Uses or Possesses the Firearm: California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina and Rhode Island require that the child possess or use the firearm in some way before liability attaches. In California, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, and Rhode Island, the statute applies when the child uses the firearm to cause death or serious injury. California, Iowa, Florida, New Hampshire and North Carolina also impose liability when the minor takes the firearm to a public place, and/or uses the firearm in a threatening manner. The New Hampshire and North Carolina statutes also impose liability when the child uses the firearm in the commission of a crime.
• States Imposing Criminal Liability for Negligent Storage of Unloaded Firearms: Hawaii and Massachusetts impose liability even if the firearm is unloaded. In the case of handguns only, California imposes liability when the child carries a loaded or unloaded handgun off-premise. All other states require that the firearm be loaded for liability to attach.
• Common Exceptions: States allow several exceptions to their child access prevention laws. The most common exception applies where the firearm is stored in a locked container (California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas). Another common exception applies where the minor gains access to the firearm via illegal entry of the premises (California, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Texas). Other exceptions include cases where the firearm is used for hunting, sport shooting and/or agricultural purposes, where the minor uses the firearm in defense of self or others, where the firearm is used in aid of law enforcement, or where the child has completed a firearm safety course.
• States Preventing Persons from Intentionally, Knowingly and/or Recklessly Providing Firearms to Minors: Several states impose a weaker standard for criminal liability when a child is allowed to access a firearm. Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin prohibit persons from intentionally, knowingly, and/or recklessly providing some or all firearms to children.
• All firearms: Indiana, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma and Utah laws apply to all firearms.
• All loaded firearms: Delaware, Wisconsin and Virginia prohibit persons from providing loaded firearms to children.
• Handguns only: Colorado, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee laws only prohibit providing handguns to minors.
• Lesser standard for parents/guardians: Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Utah impose a lesser standard on parents and guardians, providing that parents may be held liable for providing firearms to children only where they know of a substantial risk that the minor will use the firearm to commit a crime.
• Definition of “Minor”: The age which triggers a state’s child access prevention law varies, ranging from children under 14 to those under 18. Under 18: California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah Under 17: Texas Under 16: Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Rhode Island Under 14: Illinois, Iowa, Virginia, Wisconsin

• States Requiring that All Firearms Be Stored with a Locking Device in Place: Massachusetts and the District of Columbia require that all firearms be stored with locking devices in place to prevent accidental discharge. These laws are another important means to protect children from gaining unauthorized access to firearms and causing death or injury.
• States Imposing Civil Liability on Persons Who Fail to Store Firearms Properly: California imposes civil liability on the parent/guardian of a minor for damages resulting from the minor’s discharge of a firearm, where the parent/guardian permitted the minor to have the firearm or left it accessible to the minor. Connecticut imposes strict liability in civil actions on persons who fail to store firearms securely, where a minor gains access and causes injury or death. In Illinois, when a minor under the age of 21 legally acquires a firearms license by obtaining the permission of a parent/guardian, that parent/guardian becomes liable for civil claims for damages resulting from the minor’s use of firearms or ammunition. In Nevada, a parent/guardian is jointly and severally liable with the minor for civil damages caused by permitting the minor to possess a firearm, where the parent/guardian knows or has reason to know that the minor has a propensity to commit violent acts, intends to use the firearm for an unlawful purpose, or has been previously adjudicated delinquent.
Gun Safety Tips
Owning a gun is a right. Protecting children is a responsibility. Prevent suicide and accidental injury by storing guns and ammunition safely. Talk to your children and their caregivers about gun safety.
• Store guns and ammunition safely. Make sure guns are stored in a locked location, unloaded, and out of the reach and sight, especially from children.
• Store ammunition separately, also store ammunication out of reach and sight of kids.
• If you or another person living in your home is suicidal, immediately remove guns from the home. Ask a trusted friend or family member to store them until you or your loved one can get the help needed.
• Make sure all guns are equipped with effective, child-resistant gun locks. Keep keys and combinations hidden. There are many options for firearm locks, including cable locks, trigger locks, personalized locks, lock boxes, and gun vaults or safes. Leaving guns on a nightstand, table, or other place where a child can gain access may lead to injuries or death.
• Talk to your kids. Explain how a gun your kids might see on television or in a video game is different from a gun in real life. Teach kids not to touch a gun and to immediately tell an adult if they see one.
• Talk to relatives and friends who your kids may visit. Ask them if they have guns in their home. Have a conversation with other family members and the parents of your children’s friends about safe gun storage practices.
• Dispose of guns you don’t need. If you decide you no longer need to have a gun in the home, consult with community law enforcement on how to dispose of it in a safe way.

Gun Attorney Free Consultation

When you need legal help with gun law in Utah, please call Ascent Law for your free consultation (801) 676-5506. We want to help you.

Michael R. Anderson, JD

Ascent Law LLC
8833 S. Redwood Road, Suite C
West Jordan, Utah
84088 United States
Telephone: (801) 676-5506