Whether for hunting, sport shooting or protection, Texans love their guns. In fact, more than 46 percent of people living in the Lone Star State own a gun. Unfortunately, every year we hear tragic stories about children who get hold of a firearm and shoot themselves or someone else.
Not only is this tragic, but it can be criminal. Gun owners can be charged with making a firearm accessible to a child in Texas if they fail to secure their firearms or leave them in a place where a child can access them. In fact, Texas law now requires school districts to distribute information to parents and guardians about the safe storage of firearms.
Here’s what you need to know about making a firearm accessible to a child in Texas, which is also referred to as the Child Access Prevention, or CAP, law.
What is the Law for Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child?
Under Texas Penal Code 46.13, a person commits the offense of making a firearm accessible to a child if the child gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm, and the person with criminal negligence:
- Failed to secure the firearm; or
- Left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access
Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child: Important Definitions
- A “child” means a person younger than 17 years of age.
- A “readily dischargeable firearm” means a firearm that is loaded with ammunition, whether or not a round is in the chamber.
- “Secure” means to take steps that a reasonable person would take to prevent the access to a readily dischargeable firearm by a child, including but not limited to placing a firearm in a locked container or temporarily or rendering the firearm inoperable by a trigger lock or other means.
What is the Punishment for Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child?
Making a firearm accessible to a child is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to $500 fine. This offense could occur, for example, if your son brings some friends home and starts showing off the loaded gun you keep under the couch.
If the gun goes off and someone gets hurt or dies, the punishment is more serious. It is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine, if the child discharges a firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to himself or another person.
Interestingly, the law specifically states if the negligent gun owner is a member of the family of the child who discharged the firearm, and the child was seriously injured or killed, an arrest cannot be made until seven days after the offense was committed. This aspect of the law was put into place to allow the gun owner, which is often a parent or relative, a grieving period before being taken into custody.
Affirmative Defenses to Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child
It’s important to point out that there are affirmative defenses in the law, such as an adult taking their child hunting. A person would not be in violation of the law if the child’s access to a firearm:
- Was supervised by a person older than age 18 and was for hunting, sporting, or other lawful purposes;
- Consisted of lawful defense by the child or people or property;
- Was gained by entering property in violation of this code; or
- Occurred during a time when the actor was engaged in agricultural enterprise
A Note for Firearm Dealers
Under the law, a firearms dealer must post in a “conspicuous position” on the premises where he or she conducts business a sign that contains the following warning in block letters not less than one inch in height:
IT IS UNLAWFUL TO STORE, TRANSPORT, OR ABANDON AN UNSECURED FIREARM IN A PLACE WHERE CHILDREN ARE LIKELY TO BE AND CAN OBTAIN ACCESS TO THE FIREARM.
Proper Storage of a Firearm
In 2021, 4,613 Texans experienced gun-related deaths. The Texas Department of State Health Services reports that 55 percent of Texas firearm deaths were suicides. Restricting access to firearms reduces acts of violence, self-harm and unintentional injury to others. A gun should be stored in unloaded in a safe or locked container with ammunition stored in a different place. Learn more at SafeGunStorageTexas.com.
Accused of Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child? Contact Us.
If you or a loved one is facing a charge for making a firearm accessible to a child, it’s imperative that you have a highly skilled defense attorney in your corner. Our team is made up of board-certified criminal attorneys and former prosecutors who have a proven track record of success. We will analyze every aspect of your case, develop a comprehensive and strategic defense plan, and fiercely advocate on your behalf to produce the most favorable outcome possible.