Latest child gun incident raises questions about laws

An 8-year-old was accidentally shot by another child with a stolen gun. His father was charged in the crime.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It wasn't a fatal shooting, but it easily could have been.

Thursday night, a 9-year-old boy fired a gun inside a Moncrief home, leaving an 8-year-old with non-life threatening injuries. Thirty-four-year-old Ronald Blackman has been charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and making a firearm accessible to a child.

Florida statute 784, which pertains to gun responsibility, maintains that if Thursday night's victim had died, Blackman could face a 15-year prison sentence on that second charge alone.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office say the weapon involved had been reported stolen in February. Crime analyst Mark Baughman told First Coast News on Friday that it's rare in such cases for the original, legal owner of a stolen weapon to face prosecution.

"Typically what happens is the ownership falls on the people that possess the gun or own the gun," Baughman explained. "Whether it be stolen from somewhere else and they possess it at the time being, or it's the original owner that had it and just recklessly left it lying out in the house."

Which means, for the purpose of legal responsibility, ownership falls on the person who was in possession of the weapon, not necessarily the proper owner.

JSO Sheriff Mike Williams voiced his displeasure about legal owners who store their guns carelessly, particularly inside their cars, to our news partners at The Florida Times-Union in February.

We asked Baughman whether he believes the reach of legal responsibility should extend to negligent owners whose guns are stolen, when those guns are used after the theft to commit a crime, and whether such a law would be effective in reducing the number of incidents like what happened in Moncrief on Thursday.

"I don’t think it would bear out one way or the other." Baughman said. "I think when people have an agenda to get a weapon, they’re going to do what they have to do to get that weapon."

We also spoke with gun owner Marsha Dowell, who said "If a gun is stolen out of my house and I have reported it stolen, and if there’s a police report, I don’t think I should be held liable," adding that she could see a case for prosecution if a gun owner failed to report their weapon stolen.

We met Dowell at Green Acres Sporting Goods, where we also spoke with sales manager Ziadeh Farhat.

"You have the gun in your glove box, somebody breaks in to your car and steals your gun, I don’t think the gun owner should be liable," said Farhat.

He went on to point out that the law requires guns to be either kept in a locked container or have a lock on the guns themselves that prevents them firing.

"The whole lock is really for kids. Somebody who steals a gun, they’re going to be able to figure out how to get in to the lock. So I don’t think you should be able to hold the gun owner responsible if the gun is stolen," he reasoned.

Meanwhile, Dowell said any such law placing potential responsibility on a legal owner whose gun is used to commit a crime after being stolen wouldn't affect her safety habits.

"I'm ex-military, I'm an ex-police officer, so, probably not," said Dowell.

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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