Protecting our children is the fundamental reason many of us own and carry our firearms. Securing those firearms in our homes is just as important as understanding how to use them in the outside world. Let’s take a look at the laws in your state regarding securing firearms from children.
What is the law on storing firearms to prevent access by children in Texas?
In Texas, the law says it is a crime if a child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm and you (acting with criminal negligence) failed to secure that firearm or left the firearm in a place that you knew or should have known a child would gain access.
To understand this law, we need to break it down into its core components.
How is a child defined under the law? A child means anyone younger than 17 years of age.
What is considered a readily dischargeable firearm? The law defines a readily dischargeable firearm as a firearm that is loaded with ammo, whether or not there is a round in the chamber.
To avoid criminal liability, you must secure your firearm. But how is “secure” defined? Securing your firearm means that you take steps that a reasonable person would take to prevent the access by a child, including but not limited to, placing a firearm in a locked container or temporarily rendering the firearm inoperable by a trigger lock or other means.
On a related note, if a child commits a crime to gain access to a firearm (for example, breaking into a house), then the firearm’s owner is not guilty of a crime when the child gains access.
What penalties could you face if you’re arrested for this offense?
Under this law, if a child gets ahold of your readily dischargeable firearm, you would be facing a class C misdemeanor which is punishable by up to a $500 fine. If, however, the child actually discharges the firearm, and causes death or serious bodily injury to anybody (including themselves) then the penalty jumps up to the highest-level misdemeanor: a class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one-year in county jail and a $4000 fine, or both.
But what about self-defense?
There is an affirmative defense to this law which allows a child to use a gun in self-defense, defense of others, or defense of property. So, if someone breaks in and your child gets your gun and defends themselves or the family, you will have a defense to any charges.
Depending on the age, maturity, and experience of children who might have access to the firearm, practically speaking, keeping a child from getting ahold of a gun may be a much higher priority than making sure they have quick access to a loaded firearm for self-defense.
If you have any questions about the legality of storing your firearms, call Texas LawShield and ask to speak to an Independent Program Attorney.