SAN ANTONIO – In the past three days, there have been two incidents of a child getting a hold of a loaded gun and hurting themselves or another child.
KSAT viewers often ask us if a parent or guardian could face any consequences for not safely locking up a firearm.
According to Texas Penal Code 46.13, making a firearm accessible to a child is a punishable offense that is not just limited to parents and guardians.
“It actually applies to anybody,” St. Mary’s Law Professor Gary Reamey said. “If somebody makes a weapon accessible to a child, then if the child gains access to a weapon, it’s a crime.”
Reamey said despite it being a crime the most a person can be charged with is a Class C misdemeanor if nobody gets hurt or a Class A misdemeanor if the incident causes death or serious bodily injury.
The punishment range for a Class A misdemeanor is a fine of no more than $4,000 or up to one year in jail.
Reamey said these cases are often challenging for prosecutors. While we may hear of incidents like this happening, it’s very rare that someone is actually prosecuted.
“The penalty range is not sufficiently high to justify a lot of resources being poured into these prosecutions, and so that’s discouraging for a prosecutor,” Reamey said.
Currently, there are four pieces of pending legislation that could change the current law by increasing the offense to a felony and making them easier to prosecute.
More legislation is also expected as Texas Senator Roland Gutierrez will introduce gun safety legislation on Tuesday. The bills being proposed include ensuring safe gun storage.
In addition to criminal charges, offenders could face civil lawsuits by any injured parties and be ordered to pay hefty civil penalties.