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Negligent storage of a firearm can result in criminal charges.
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Lock it up or get locked up.

by C.W. Lachey, Esq.

This is part one of a two-part newsletter regarding Negligent Storage of a Firearm. Part two is scheduled for next week, February 27th, 2017; I will discuss Constructive Possession and non-minors.

If you have firearms in your home you likely store them in convenient or "emergency" areas, i.e. night stand; dresser drawer; mattress; closet; or frontier-style above-the-doorway. You also probably don't keep the firearms locked up with a chain device or in a safe (portable or otherwise) because you're not going to get the chance to unlock it in the event of an emergency.

Here's the problem though, if you have children or children are in your home, they WILL find the firearms. I'm sure you've done a great job educating your child about the dangers of firearms but North Carolina doesn't care about that. North Carolina makes it a crime to leave unfettered access to a firearm by a minor despite his or her education level regarding the weapon.

Here's the statute, read it when you have some time, but here's the breakdown of the law:
You cannot leave a firearm unattended in your residence if it is: 1) able to be fired and 2) left in a place a child would be able to get at it. If the minor commits a crime with the firearm, harms himself/others, flaunts it about in public, or violates one of the more than a dozen campus/educational property firearms laws. Even if ammo is stored/locked up separate from the weapon, if it is an otherwise functioning firearm it meets the criteria for element 1.

The crime is a class-1 Misdemeanor which carries, on a first offense, a community punishment such as behavioral classes, parenting classes, community service, and forfeiture of firearms. Further, this is a "gun-related" crime and you may no longer be eligible to purchase firearms under Federal law. You're also responsible for paying all court costs, fees, and treatment on top of missing work for court.

Here's some good news; you can avoid this charge altogether by taking a few steps to secure your firearms: store your pistols in a small finger combo safe instead of loose in the drawer or under the mattress. The finger safe lets you open it from muscle-memory in the event of an emergency, I don't recommend any specific retailer or brand, but I do recommend sticking with a safe that only has buttons and not a fingerprint reader; if you have any residue like lotion, gel, mousse, etc. it can cause the device to not work properly. Your long guns can be stored in a glass display case with a lock, but an attempt has to be made to secure the firearms.

I'll leave you with this: You cannot be convicted of this crime if the minor broke into your home or safe unlawfully and stole the firearms. So any circumstance you can imagine in which your kid's friends see your guns in a glass display case and then break into later will not result in a conviction under this law. 

EXCEPTION!
Yes, there is an exception, but it's limited and I don't want you to get confused about it. It still doesn't excuse the numerous other violations of the law that can occur and is typically reserved for YOUR children or those you consistently care for: The child's parents can give permission for the child to have access to the firearm. Sounds good, right? You can give your child permission and you're fine, right? Yes, UNLESS your kid has friends that haven't been given permission, OR if your child is under the age of 12 and even then it depends on the type of firearm it is: rifle, shotgun, pistol, class-3, etc. That's how firearms laws are; there are always exceptions to the rule and those exceptions have exceptions that practically nullify the original exception except in niche circumstances.

Further Reading

C.W. Lachey Law, PLLC is a full-service law firm providing personalized service all over North Carolina. Call or send an email for a free consultation for your criminal defense, family, civil, estate, or business matter.

704.940.0465
Christopher@cwlesq.com

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