GUN OWNER CHARGED WITH INVOLUNTARY MANSLAUGHTER FOR CRIMINAL STORAGE OF HIS GUN
Having recently returned to his family’s condo, Todd Francis stored some of his belongings in his garage. He is married and has a 14-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter. Their condo’s garage has a couch and was a hangout for neighborhood kids. On June 4, 2013, Todd and his wife were away. Their 14-year-old son was in charge of his sister. A 10-year-old neighbor boy came over and was playing in the garage with the 9-year-old sister. They found Todd’s Sig-Sauer 9 mm handgun and played with it. The gun discharged and the 10-year-old neighbor boy was shot in the chest and died. Todd, through his attorney, reported the gun was stored in an inaccessible location in the garage, was not loaded, and the ammunition was stored separately.
Todd was recently arrested and booked into custody. He bailed out on $100,000.00 bail. (The bondsman’s non-refundable fee for posting bail would be $8,000.00.) He is to be arraigned on felony charges of Involuntary Manslaughter, Child Endangerment and Criminal Storage of a Firearm.
Manslaughter, CA Penal Code section 192, is the unlawful killing of a human being without malice. It is involuntary if it is in the commission of an unlawful act, not amounting to a felony, or in the commission of a lawful act which might produce death in an unlawful manner, or without due caution and circumspection. Penal Code 192(b). If convicted of this charge, Todd Francis has an exposure of up to four years in custody. The judge can choose to grant probation instead and condition the probation grant on some time in custody or an alternative sentence to custody. The offense is not reducible at a later time to a misdemeanor.
Child Endangerment is covered by CA Penal Code section 273a (a). “Any person who under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death willfully causes or permits any child to suffer…..or permits that child to be placed in a situation where his or her person or health is endangered shall be punished by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year year, or in the state prison for two, four or six years.” The prosecutor needs to prove for a conviction: 1. the defendant acted under circumstances or conditions likely to produce great bodily harm or death to a person; and 2. the defendant willfully inflicted or permitted unjustifiable physical pain or mental suffering on a child. Willfully inflicted does not require a specific intent to cause harm to someone else. It means the defendant intentionally left a firearm in his garage. The offense is reducible later to a misdemeanor if found guilty of a felony. It does carry a firearm prohibition even if reduced to a misdemeanor.
CA Penal Code section 25100 sets forth that to be guilty of Criminal Storage of a Firearm in the First Degree as a felony the following must be proved: 1.The person keeps any loaded firearm within any premises that are under the persons custody or control; 2. The person knows or reasonably should know that a child is likely to gain access to the firearm without the permission of the child’s parent or legal guardian; and 3. The child obtains access to the firearm and thereby causes death or great bodily injury to the child or any other person. The offense carries up to three years in custody. Probation can be granted. It is a felony that can be reduced later to a misdemeanor. The offense does carry a firearm prohibition if later reduced to a misdemeanor.
Todd will be responsible for any restitution costs for medical care, funeral expenses, and time off from work for the boy’s parents. A civil suit could be filed if there are any assets to pursue or if Todd’s family has homeowners or renters insurance. The nightmare for Todd and his family has just started. The nightmare for the family of the 10-year-old boy has already taken place.
A 10-year-old boy is dead because a gun owner unlawfully stored his gun and ammunition. If you or anyone you know owns or possesses firearms, encourage them to lock them securely in a gun safe and not allow or provide any access to the weapons by any minor. You as a parent need to ask your child’s playmates and their parents if there are any guns accessible to them. Tragic accidents happen all the time. Gun deaths are one of the leading causes of death in children under the age of 18 in this country.