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Gun Owner Liability

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Can a Gun Owner Face Criminal Charges?

If a gun owner’s gun is used in a crime by someone other than the gun owner, can the gun owner be charged with a crime? Criminal charges are filed against people who committed the crimes rather the gun owners. Gun ownership in and of itself is not a crime.

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) is a federal law that restricts the charges gun dealers, owners, and manufacturers can face in response to gun crimes. However, gun owners whose guns were used in crimes may face civil penalties in some states and under certain conditions.

Can a Gun Owner Face Civil Charges?

Many states will impose minor penalties on gun owners who knowingly give their guns to known convicted felonies. For example, this is considered a Class A misdemeanor in Kansas.

In other states, in order for negligence charges to be brought against a gun owner, there must be an aspect of “knowing” that the person borrowing the gun will use it in a gun crime.

Which Laws Protect Gun Owners?

The PLCAA is part of federal code and located at 15 USC §§ 7901-7903. This law is based on the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which grants citizens the right to keep and bear arms, even if they are not a member of a militia or a military. The PCLAA asserts that it places an unreasonable burden on interstate and foreign commerce to impose liability on an entire industry for the actions of individuals.

The PCLAA protects gun owners in the following ways:

  • Prohibits legal actions against makers and dealers of guns if the product functioned as it was designed and intended.
  • Guarantees citizens’ 14th Amendment rights.
  • Prevent lawsuits that would place unreasonable burdens on commerce.
  • Protects First Amendment rights to speak freely, assemble peacefully, and petition government for redress of grievances without fear of being victims of gun violence.
  • Preserve citizens’ rights to own, supply, stock and store firearms and ammunition for hunting, self-defense, collection, and recreational use.

Other federal gun control regulations for manufacturing, importing, selling, owning, and using guns are the Gun Control Act of 1968, the National Firearms Act, and the Arms Export Control Act.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you are a gun owner facing legal problems because someone else used your gun illegally or violated gun laws with your gun, you should consult a criminal defense lawyer immediately. There are many legal protections available for gun owners and a lawyer will help you find the best ones that fit your case.

Photo of page author Danielle Winterton

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 06-27-2016 12:17 PM PDT

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