Did you know that guns are now killing as many people as cars in the United States of America, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control? This is in large part due to the decline of auto fatalities, yet gun mortality continues to rise in our country.
Last year, almost 13,000 people died in our country due to homicide, murder/suicide and unintentional shootings. And that last category should be much lower. Every day, 48 children and teens are shot in due to murders, assaults, suicides & suicide attempts, and unintentional shootings. These shocking statistics reported from Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence remind us how some gun education and more gun safety can save lives.
No family should have to suffer the loss of their child because of gun violence. Unfortunately, I see it first hand, having handled many cases involving gun violence and accidental shootings. Most recently, I have been representing the family of a 16-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed by a friend. When this 16-year-old went over to his friend’s house on a Friday evening a few months ago, it seemed like another normal teenage sleepover. But he had never been at this friend’s house before, and the families didn’t really know each other — But everything seemed to be safe. Hours after arriving, this teenager’s father received the phone call that is every parent’s nightmare — his son had been shot in the head and his friend was the shooter in what appeared to be an accidental shooting. Three long days later, this teenager was removed from life support after being declared brain-dead.
In what we see all too often, there were no adults in the home at the time of the shooting, but there were several loaded guns throughout the residence. The shooting was an accident, but there could have been better care to prevent the tragedy that happens all too often across the nation. The real issue is that this gun never should have been in the shooter’s hands. This isn’t about drive-by shootings. This isn’t a debate about open carry or any similar issues. This is about gun safety.
The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office is currently investigating the shooting, and no criminal charges have been filed.
We are proceeding forward with the case, but right now, we want to raise awareness about gun safety. If your child is going to sleep over at a friend’s house, it is not unreasonable for you to ask the parents if there are guns in the home and if they are accessible to children versus being safely locked or otherwise stored away. You must ask because the risk is too great if you don’t do so.
We have to protect our families from the dangers of unsecured guns and children. There are laws in Florida regarding gun safety, dealing with safe storage of guns when younger children are involved. This imposes criminal penalties upon any person who stores or leaves a loaded firearm on premises under his or her control, and who knows or reasonably should know that a person under age 16 may possibly gain access to the firearm. Gun owners must keep the firearm in a securely locked box or container and keep the firearm in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure.
However, Florida law only makes the person who fails to store a firearm in this manner criminally liable (a misdemeanor of the second degree) if a minor gains access to the firearm without the lawful permission of his/her parent or legal guardian and causes harm to the safety or general public. Our clients hope to bring this story to the Florida legislature, so laws can be enacted to prevent anything like this from happening again, extending this law to cover anyone up to the age of 18.
For now, parents need to be aware of this issue and be willing to ask gun safety questions to the parents of their children’s friends if there is going to be a sleepover or a “play date.” Gun ownership is a constitutional right. We just need to make sure that it is exercised carefully, so our children can be safe. The goal is that other families won’t have to get a phone call or a surprise visit from law enforcement, when they think their son or daughter is at a play date or a sleepover, and instead they get that horrible news that their son or daughter is dead.