Over the past decade there have been more than 150 school shootings in the United States, including those at the college level. The increasing frequency and loss of life from these tragedies is no longer surprising, but it is always heartbreaking. Most of these shootings occur when a child who is suffering mental or physical adversity obtains a gun from an adult and makes the terrible decision to engage in violence.
The State of Illinois has considered the issue of child access to guns and has set forth legal responsibility for some of the adults who enable such tragedies to occur. All gun owners should be aware of these legal requirements to ensure that they are protecting themselves from legal liability, and their children from harm.
What Are the Requirements for Legal Gun Ownership in Illinois?
The State of Illinois requires that in order to lawfully possess a firearm, a person must be 21 years or older, or have the consent of a parent or guardian, so long as that parent or guardian is eligible to have a firearm owners identification card (“FOID card”). 430 ILCS 65/4(a)(2). If a minor does not have a FOID card, Illinois law prohibits an adult from storing or leaving his or her firearm accessible to that minor under the age of 14 or in any place that such a minor is likely to access. 720 ILCS 5/24-9.
Firearms Must Be Securely Stored
The statute defines secure storage of firearms as, securing the firearm with a safety mechanism, beyond the firearm safety, that renders the firearm inoperable, securing the gun in a locked box or container, or placing the gun in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure from the minor child. 720 ILCS 5/24-9. If that minor child causes death or great bodily harm with a firearm that is not properly secured, then the adult who secured that gun is criminally liable, and subject to a fine of not less than $1,000. 720 ILCS 5/24-9(b). Further, if a minor child does cause death or great bodily harm with a firearm after a parent or legal guardian has consented to the minor child receiving a FOID card themselves, then the parent or legal guardian is liable for any damages resulting from the minor’s improper use of the firearm. 430 ILCS 65/64(c).
Given the law in Illinois, it is imperative that gun owners with children in their homes take accountability for gun safety. If they fail to do so, they are putting the lives of their own children, and the lives of many other children at risk. If a shooting does occur, the adult may be responsible for that outcome if they either provided the minor child with their own FOID card or failed to properly secure the gun to prevent the outcome. The Second Amendment of the United States Constitution grants Americans the right to possess guns, but there are serious responsibilities required for safe gun ownership. The consequences of failing to monitor minors with guns, or failure to secure guns in the home, are grave.