Of these, Massachusetts is the only state that has a true “safe storage” law on the books, says Sam Hoover, a staff attorney at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Massachusetts law requires that guns be locked at all times in the home, except when used in self-defense. In addition, all guns in Massachusetts must be kept with a locking device in place.
Yet even in those states that don't have CAP laws, some prosecutors have found ways to go after gun owners who fail to keep weapons out of children's hands.
“It’s a fairly straightforward civil liability case that a parent can be held liable for failing to adequately secure a gun away from a young person, and there have been a number of civil suits over the years, and a number of reported cases around the country of holding gun owners to the highest degree of care in securing their weapons,” says Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
In Washington, a non-CAP state, both a 9-year-old boy’s mother and her boyfriend were criminally charged after the boy brought a loaded gun to school and it went off in his backpack, critically injuring a classmate. Prosecutors said that giving the boy access to the gun constituted an “extreme act of negligence.”
The boy’s mother, a felon, eventually pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful possession of a firearm in exchange for having the assault charge against her dropped. Her boyfriend is still appealing his charge of third-degree assault.
Meanwhile in Ohio, also a non-CAP state, the uncle of sophomore T.J. Lane, who killed three students and wounded three others at Chardon High School in February 2012, was never charged with any crime, though T.J. reportedly stole the handgun he used from his uncle. Instead, parents of the three students killed filed a wrongful death lawsuit, charging that T.J.'s parents and grandparents failed to supervise him, and in doing so, “facilitated, contributed to, and otherwise failed to prevent the fatal shooting."