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Can Parents Face Criminal Charges if a Child Uses Their Gun in Pennsylvania?

February 09, 2021

By van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim

A sad but interesting story recently emerged in Chester County. A 15-year-old boy engaged in a slap box match with two other boys. The sparring match became much more serious when the boy pulled out a gun that belonged to his grandfather, who he lived with at the time. The boy shot one of the other boys in the stomach and the clavicle, and the victim was airlifted to the Hospital.

The story had some people wondering whether the grandfather would face charges for allowing his grandson access to his gun. While in certain situations, parents and other guardians can face criminal charges for allowing a minor to use their gun, these cases are rarely prosecuted in Pennsylvania.

The Law on Minors and Guns in Pennsylvania

Generally speaking, state law makes it illegal for any minor under the age of 18 to possess or transport a firearm. An exception to this is when a minor is engaging in a lawful activity, such as hunting or target shooting, and when they are under the supervision of their parent or legal guardian.

Anyone that intentionally provides a minor with a firearm or delivers a firearm to a minor may be charged with a felony of the third degree. The penalties for this offense include up to seven years in jail and a fine of $15,000. Law enforcement will also likely seize the firearm.

Under the law, it is natural to assume that parents may be criminally responsible when their child uses a firearm. However, this is not usually the case.

When Parents May Face Charges

While 27 states and the District of Columbia have made it illegal for parents to carelessly leave weapons around children that are not supervised, Pennsylvania is not one of them. For a parent or guardian to face criminal charges after a minor uses their weapon, the prosecution must be able to show that the adult intentionally gave the gun to the minor. This is very difficult to prove and may be the reason why the Office of Attorney General has not seen even one case involving this law in recent years.

However, that is not to say that parents and guardians will not face any repercussions when their child uses their gun. When a child uses the gun and injures someone, the victim or their parents may file a civil lawsuit against the offender’s parent or guardian for negligently providing their child with access to the gun. Parents may also face charges of reckless endangerment, which is a misdemeanor.

Our Criminal Defense Lawyers in Pennsylvania Can Help with Your Case

The law on minors and guns in Pennsylvania is quite clear, but certain facts of a case can make it quite complex. If you or your child has been charged with a gun crime, our Philadelphia criminal defense lawyers at van der Veen, Hartshorn, Levin & Lindheim are here to help. Call us today at (215) 486-0123 or fill out our online form to learn more about the defenses available and how our skilled attorneys can help with your case.



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