Posted on January 1, 2012
See our Child Access Prevention policy summary for a comprehensive discussion of this issue.
Under Texas law, if a child under 17 years of age gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm (i.e., loaded with ammunition, whether or not a round is in the chamber), a person is criminally liable if he or she, “with criminal negligence:”
- Failed to secure the firearm (i.e., to take steps a reasonable person would take to prevent the access to a readily dischargeable firearm by a child, including but not limited to placing a firearm in a locked container or temporarily rendering the firearm inoperable by a trigger lock or other means); or
- Left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access.1
However, a person is not guilty under this law if the child’s access to the firearm:
- Was supervised by a person older than age 18 and was for hunting, sporting, or other lawful purposes;
- Consisted of lawful defense by the child of people or property;
- Was gained by entering property in violation of this code; or
- Occurred during a time when the actor was engaged in an agricultural enterprise.2)
The penalty for a violation is significantly harsher if the child discharges the firearm and causes death or serious bodily injury to himself, herself or another person.3
If the negligent person is a member of the family of the child who discharged the firearm, and the child was killed or seriously injured, an arrest cannot be made until seven days after the offense was committed.4
Finally, a firearms dealer must post in a “conspicuous position” on the premises where he or she conducts business a sign that contains the following warning in block letters not less than one inch in height:
IT IS UNLAWFUL TO STORE, TRANSPORT, OR ABANDON AN UNSECURED FIREARM IN A PLACE WHERE CHILDREN ARE LIKELY TO BE AND CAN OBTAIN ACCESS TO THE FIREARM.5
Please note that state administrative regulations govern the storage of firearms in certain locations.