Tort Liability for the Negligent Storage of Firearms

negligent firearms storageAndrew J. McClurg, Armed and Dangerous: Tort Liability for the Negligent Storage of Firearms, 32 Connecticut Law Review 1189-1245 (2000).

Overwhelming evidence shows that high percentages of American gun owners negligently store their firearms, leaving them easily accessible to unauthorized, dangerous users. Public health studies show that millions of guns are kept loaded and unlocked. More than 50 percent of all handguns are stored unlocked. Ammunition is stored unlocked in between 30–40 percent of gun-owning households. Millions of children live in homes with loaded, unlocked firearms.

The author has argued in other articles for safe gun storage laws as a way to reduce accidental shootings, adolescent suicides, and intentional third-party shootings tied to stolen guns. This article makes a case that unsafe firearm storage constitutes an unreasonable risk and is negligent conduct under universally accepted principles of tort law.

1 comment to Tort Liability for the Negligent Storage of Firearms

  • Scott Hedrick

    I’d say that failure to properly secure a gun when it is not under active, authorized use (active, authorized use would be an active sporting event or gun show in which the owner is present and using the gun) should be a felony, and that the owner could be subject to the felony murder rule. Restricting legal gun and magazine types does not improve safety, because, by definition, criminals do not obey the law. However, a safe of the type seen in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2gCFOtaZPo is not unreasonable. It’s nearly as accessible as a gun in a nightstand drawer and far more secure. The gun is not the problem – it’s people who are the problem, whether a bad guy intent on doing harm or an owner who fails or refuses to properly secure the weapon.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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