Charging Parents in Mass Shootings

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Charging Parents with a Crime when Kids use their Parents’ Guns Unlawfully

Recently, there have been shootings by minors in public areas such as schools. Because one has to be eighteen and have a permit to carry a gun, some of these minors possess firearms from their parents. One of the questions surrounding this issue is what can parents be charged with if their child possesses and uses their firearm to commit a crime, without their consent?

Under the Dangerous Control of a Child Act (Indiana Code § 35-47-10-7), statute states that a child’s parent or legal guardian who knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly permits the child to possess a firearm while aware that there is a risk that the child will use the firearm to commit a felony and fails to make reasonable efforts to prevent the use of a firearm by the child to commit a felony commits dangerous control of a child. This means that even if the parent or guardian does not know or intend to let the child possess the firearm, he or she can still be charged if it is allowed recklessly. A parent or guardian who, for example, does not lock up their firearm in such a way that a minor cannot access it could be charged because that the parent or guardian did not make a “reasonable effort” to prevent the use of the firearm. This would be a Level 5 felony, but could be a Level 4 felony if the child’s parent or guardian has a prior conviction with children and handguns.

The next potential charge is the Provision of Firearm by Adult to Child (Indiana Code § 35-47-10-6). Under this section, an adult can be charged with a Level 5 felony if he or she knowingly or intentionally provides a firearm to a child whom the adult knows is ineligible to receive the gun or intends to use the firearm to commit a crime. Although this statute would be more difficult for the State to prove due to the language of “intentionally” and “knowingly,” a parent or guardian could be charged even if the child had constructive possession. This means that if the child had the capability to maintain control over the firearm, he could be seen as possessing the firearm. An example of this could be if a parent or guardian leaves out a firearm in a room that a child has access to.

Finally, a parent or guardian could be charged with Neglect of a Dependent (Indiana Code 35-46-1-4). A parent or guardian can be charged with a Level 6 Felony if he or she knowingly or intentionally places the dependent in a dangerous situation. This could be possible if the parent or guardian leaves a safe open or unlocked or possibly leaves a firearm in a room accessible to the minor.

It is possible that new legislation could be created to address this issue. The legislation could codify a penalty for unsafe ownership of a gun. A part of the new legislation could make it a Class A misdemeanor where one possess a gun in a way that allows another to access it and a felony if the one that accesses it is a minor. Although there is not a direct statute created yet, this is an issue that can not only negatively affect a child, but a parent or guardian as well.

The criminal defense attorneys in Indianapolis at Banks & Brower stand ready to assist you with your legal issues 24 hours a day.  You can reach us at 317-870-0019.