Gun laws are one of the most polarizing issues in the United States. While the right to bear arms and the history of this country are inextricably connected, the number of accidental shootings is astounding. However, the one gun issue everyone seems to agree on is the need to decrease the number of accidental shootings involving children.
Last year, 265 children under the age of 18 picked up a gun and shot someone by accident, 83 of those incidents were fatal according to the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. Importantly, each one of those incidents was preventable.
New Jersey prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from possessing or firing a firearm unless under the direct supervision of a parent; as part of a recognized military organization; target practice or competition or hunting so long as the juvenile has a hunter’s license and completed a hunter’s safety course.
According to Everytown, about a third of American children live in homes with firearms, and approximately 43% of those homes contain an unlocked firearm. In New Jersey, a person may be held criminally responsible if a minor under 16 years of age gains access to a loaded firearm that the owner had under their control that was not stored securely.
Importantly, New Jersey law provides for a mandatory prison term of three years without parole to any person who sells or transfers a firearm to a minor under the age of 18 years.
All too often, we have heard horrific stories of a young child discharging a weapon and killing themselves or their sibling or friend. In New Jersey, any person having a legal duty or assumed responsibility for the care of a child who causes child harm is guilty of a second-degree crime with a term of imprisonment of five to ten years.
About 70% of unintended child gun deaths occurred because a gun owner left a legally owned firearm unsecured. Children are naturally curious. Parents need to be reminded of storing firearms responsibly. Eleven states including New Jersey require that safety devices be included along with gun sales.
Guns need to be stored in a safe or a secure gun case. Ammunition should be separately secured and locked in a safe place. Keep the keys for each in a separate place as well.
Additionally, many organizations advocate gun education and safety for children. Especially in homes where guns are prevalent, educating your child about gun safety with an open, honest discussion eliminates the mystique of guns.
Smart gun technology has the potential to limit unintentional shootings. Relying on biometrics such as a fingerprint or palm reader, this technology ensures only the owner can fire the gun. In addition to preventing accidental discharging by children, smart gun technology would also render stolen guns useless and eliminate a major safety threat.
Considering that many cellphones now have this technology, it would make sense to include it on guns as well.
Till next time, God bless, keep smiling, when Your Legal Corner will discuss “Safe summer opportunities for your children.”
Victoria M. Dalton is a dedicated Family/Elder Law Attorney with the Law Offices of Hoffman DiMuzio. Email correspondence to [email protected] or call 856-845-8243.
Please note that Your Legal Corner was created to provide educational material about the law and is not legal advice.