The following is a video transcript.
With the approaching holidays, we all like to spend time with friends and family. But, what is your legal responsibility to secure your firearms on your property from people such as family members and/or visitors who are felons, intoxicated, mentally unstable or under a protective order?
In the criminal law context in Virginia, there is no Virginia code section that outlines how you are to secure your firearm from such individuals, with one exception: Virginia Code Section 18.2-56.2 makes it unlawful to allow children to access a firearm under some circumstances. This section makes it unlawful for any person to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured firearm in such a manner as to endanger the life or limb of any child under the age of 14. A violation is a Class 3 misdemeanor.
In the civil liability context, it is important to be aware of the negligent entrustment doctrine. In order to be civilly liable for money damages as a result of negligently entrusting a firearm to another, the owner of the firearm must know or have reasonable cause to know that he or she was entrusting the firearm to another who was likely to use it in a manner that would cause injury to others.
Negligent entrustment cases require
- evidence of express permission,
- evidence of a pattern of conduct supporting implied permission, or
- evidence of knowledge that the firearm could be used, notwithstanding explicit instructions to the contrary,
to establish that entrustment occurred. A best practice would be to ensure that your firearms are always secured, especially around individuals who have either permanently or even temporarily lost their Second Amendment right to bear arms.