Gun crimes have been rampant in the news over the past several months and this has brought gun legislation to the forefront. New York State has implemented new gun-control laws that affect both gun owners and sellers and it would not be a surprise if other states follow suit. This might leave you wondering, how have your rights changed as a gun owner?
In any negligence case, a plaintiff must prove duty, breach, causation and damages. Gun owners are no less liable for ordinary negligent acts than anyone else; the same elements and general rules apply to negligence cases involving guns. As held by the Superior Court of Pennsylvania, it is negligent to place loaded firearms within reach of young children or feebleminded adults.
It is also considered negligent to permit a third person to use a gun or to engage in an activity with a gun, which is under the control of the gun owner, if the gun owner knows or should know that the third party intends or is likely to use the gun or to conduct himself in the activity with the gun in such a manner as to create an unreasonable risk of harm to others.
In the state of Pennsylvania, you are not required to register your firearm so long as you legally possess the firearm. You do, of course, need a License to Carry Firearms to conceal a firearm or to carry a firearm in a motor vehicle. And there are no current laws about requiring gun owners to have any liability insurance.
Recently there has been talk amongst economists about possibly mandating gun owners to have liability insurance. This can be paralleled to how we require drivers to have auto insurance. Just as most automobile owners would unlikely be able to compensate the families of accident victims if they were not insured, the same is true for gun owners. Treating gun owners the same way that we treat vehicle owners might be the next step for help with firearms. Those who take gun-related safety courses may be able to get lower insurance rates, just as is the case with automobile insurance. Gun owners who take safety courses tend to have safer weapons and store their weapons more securely, which can help to prevent accidental shootings. Gun owners should look into whether their homeowners’ insurance policy covers accidental gun discharges, because some do.
Although no state has a liability insurance law in place yet; there are four states (California, Connecticut, Maryland and Massachusetts) that currently have liability insurance bills introduced. The liability insurance bills would cover damage or injuries caused by your gun. This is still a hot-button issue and no decisions have been made thus far, but it is important for all citizens, especially gun owners, to stay up on this matter. The liability that comes along with being a gun owner might be changing dramatically in the near future.
If you need legal advice about the potential liability of being a gun owner, or if you need an attorney for your gun-related negligence case, Chester County attorney John P. Winicov can help you. We will provide aggressive representation and we will handle your case with the care it deserves.