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Kids and Guns: Liability for Accidental Shootings by Children

Who is legally responsible if a child shoots another child or adult?

What should have been a routine day cleaning the family car turned tragic when a young child shot himself.  Three-year-old Jaxon climbed into the front seat of his parent’s truck as the two adults cleaned the vehicle.  He reached for the Glock handgun in the middle console and accidently fired the gun, with the bullet striking him in the face.  He was pronounced dead at the hospital.  

Sadly, young Jaxon is among over a dozen children killed or injured by accidental shootings in 2015 in Georgia alone.  That year, 17 children were shot unintentionally by other children or themselves, along with two mothers shot by their children.  On a national level, it is estimated that about 62 children are killed by accidental shootings annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control.  True figures could be higher due to reporting inaccuracies.

Liability for Child Gun Accidents

Accidental shootings involving children raise some complex legal issues.  If a child shoots him or herself with a parent’s unsecured weapon, the parent or owner of the gun could face criminal liability.  In determining whether to charge the gun owner, prosecutors look to the totality of the circumstances, including whether the child was supervised and where the gun was found.

When a child accidently shoots another child or an adult, surrounding legal issues become even more complicated.  Under Georgia law, parents are generally considered legally responsible for the actions of their minor children.  Accordingly, parents can be liable for injuries inflicted by their children on others.  Parents who fail to properly secure their firearms could face a wrongful death lawsuit if their child gets a hold of the weapon and fatally shoots someone else.  The family members of the accidental shooting victim will need to prove the gun owner acted negligently in allowing the child access to the weapon.

Accidental shootings are tragic for all parties involved.  Gun owners are urged to properly secure their weapons in a location that no child could access.  Gun owners should additionally utilize fingerprint locks, safes, and other methods to minimize the risk that anyone could be injured with the weapon.  

Posted in: Wrongful Death