Parents face possible liability when it comes to guns and children

Jan 10, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Feb 13, 2023, 3:58 pm

a row of guns are pictured...

Canik and Springfield pistols are displayed at Impact Guns in South Salt Lake on Wednesday, July 6, 2022. (Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

(Scott G Winterton/Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A shooting allegedly done by a 6-year-old in Virginia made national headlines last week while in Utah, a 17-year-old allegedly shot and killed a 16-year-old on Sunday. The question of how the alleged underage perpetrators had access to a gun remains.

KSL Legal Analyst told Dave and Dujanovic that Utah law doesn’t allow people under 18 to carry a gun. The only exception is hunting or at a gun range, which often requires parental supervision.

But are parents legally responsible for what happens when their child uses a gun?

Skordas said that it depends on the case.

“If the mother purchased the gun, and left it out so that the 6-year-old could get it, she may very well be criminally responsible. But the 17-year-old is going to be a little more problematic, because he may have, you know, accessed a gun that dad or mom thought was secure and thought was safe. Or maybe it was just his own sort of hunting gun.”

In Utah, there isn’t a law that requires parents to have their guns secured safely away from children.

Gun lobbyists strongly oppose that type of law existing, Skordas said.

“Because a lot of people use their guns for self-protection. And if it’s locked up, and in a safe, that doesn’t do much good when somebody’s knocking down your door.”


Despite the lack of laws, parents can still face punishment for their children’s actions. Skordas said parents can be held civilly liable.

And, depending on the case, parents could also be found guilty of criminal negligence, negligent homicide or even manslaughter.

“There are ways that parents are looked closely at in these situations, prosecutors have to look at them on a case-by-case basis and decide whether or not the parent should be responsible.”

Related: Experts urge gun safety as child gun deaths see higher rates

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Parents face possible liability when it comes to guns and children