Legal Consequences for Leaving Children Unattended with Firearms
Many Virginians keep firearms in their homes for purposes of self-defense, hunting, and sport, and while most do it in a safe manner, the law nonetheless prescribes punishment for those who put the safety of children and others at risk by allowing minors access to handguns. Violators of the law could be subject to more than just jail time, as a conviction could incur an investigation from child protective services as well.
Section § 18.2-56.2 of the Virginia Code makes it illegal for any adult 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 fourteen”
- “Knowingly to authorize a child under the age of twelve to use a firearm except when the child is under the supervision of an adult”
A violation of Subsection A is a Class 3 misdemeanor, punishable by up to $500. A conviction of Subsection B is a Class 1 misdemeanor and can carry a one-year jail sentence and a fine of up to $2,500. Either of these firearms-related crimes could be interpreted by Child Protective Services (CPS) as a form of abuse or neglect and jeopardize the parent’s custody of his or her child.
Firearms Crimes Can Have More Than Legal Consequences
Leaving a loaded firearm where a child can access it may have more than just legal consequences, such as fines, jail time, a criminal record, and a CPS investigation. A recent tragedy in Roanoke highlighted just how catastrophic these consequences can be after an 11-year-old boy was shot and killed by a friend in his home while the two played with a loaded handgun they found inside.
The young victim, described as a lover of art and music, had graduated from his elementary school just a few days before the accident. Authorities investigating the accident are said to be consulting with the Commonwealth Attorney’s Office on whether to charge the boy’s mother for leaving the loaded gun where the boys could find it.
While it is unclear if the mother of the shooter has any other children, the overlap of criminal and child neglect charges make these types of situations especially difficult to navigate. Defendants in these situations may need to fight battles with the legal system regarding whether the gun was left recklessly unsecured, as well as convince CPS they are fit parents and the child is in a safe place at home.
Leesburg Child Abuse Attorneys
If you or a family member face charges related to child abuse or neglect, contact our office for a consultation about your case. Whitbeck Cisneros McElroy, PC has years of experience helping families stay together in these types of situations and knows how to guide their clients during difficult legal times.
Our office is located in Leesburg and serves clients throughout Loudoun County, Fairfax County, Prince William County, Clarke County, and Fauquier County.