Your kid brings a gun to school, should you be held liable?

A Los Angeles woman is facing four misdemeanor chargers after her 17-year-old son brought one of her firearms to school earlier this year, local media is reporting.

Leah Wilcken’s son brought a .45 caliber pistol along with some ammunition to Will Rogers Continuation School in Van Nuys, California, back in May.

“This was particularly disconcerting because this young man, who allegedly had the gun, had had an altercation with another student just the day before,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer.

Authorities obtained a search warrant and located five firearms in the residence.

“One was found in the kitchen cabinet right next to the sink. The other ones were found in the dresser drawer, and behind a dresser,” said Deputy City Attorney Greg Dorfman.

Under California’s safe storage laws, one must keep their firearms safely stored if they know that children are present.

Now Wilcken is being charged with allowing a child to carry a firearm off-premises; allowing a child to take a firearm to school; contributing to the delinquency of a minor; and permitting a child to be placed in a situation where their person or health is endangered, according to the City Attorney’s Office.

Each count carries up to a year behind bars and a $1,000 fine.

Apparently, this is the first time authorities are prosecuting a parent for failing to safely secure a firearm.

Obviously this incident raises questions about culpability. Who is to blame? Certainly, the teenage son bears responsibility. But what about the mother? Should she be on the hook as well?

According to CriminalDefenseLawyer.com, there are some defenses for criminal storage of a firearm, but none seem to apply in this case:

  • the child obtained the firearm as a result of an illegal entry onto the premises, such as if the child is a burglar or trespasser
  • the gun is kept in a locked container, such as gun locker, or other secure location, or is carried on the body
  • the firearm is locked with a locking device
  • the defendant is a police officer or military personnel and the child obtains the firearm during the performance of the defendant’s official duties
  • the child obtains the firearm in an act of self-defense or defense of another person, or
  • the defendant had no reasonable expectation that a child would be present on the premises.

(Cal. Pen. Code, § 25105.) For example, if the defendant never had any children in his home and never invited any children into his home, but while he was out of town, the neighbor who was bringing in the mail unexpectedly allowed a child to come into the defendant’s home and the child found a gun, then the defendant may be able to avoid a conviction for criminal storage by showing that he or she had no reasonable expectation that a child would come into the home.

Overall, what are your thoughts about safe storage laws? If your teen brings a firearm to school, should you be held liable?

{ 17 comments… add one }
  • Mike Watkins September 25, 2017, 3:07 pm

    Hey, GunsAmerica! Are you running out of topics? Writers out on strike?

    This topic is 3 years old and still near top of the list? C’mon! You can do better than that!

  • Russ October 22, 2014, 12:50 am

    Dumb and Dumber!
    Raise your dam kids people, or you pay the consequences for them being irresponsible.
    My verdict;
    Since nobody was hurt.
    Make them join as lifetime members to the NRA at a cost of $5,000.00 each.
    Paid over a 5 year period.
    Complete a firearm safety and training class.
    If anyone was to have been hurt, I say throw the book at them.
    And by that I mean swiftly hit them both in the head with the hard cover.

  • William W McGraw October 21, 2014, 1:05 am

    Let’s suppose my kid found an unloaded firearm, revolver with ammo in the cylinder, yet had a safety lock on it, could not be fired and my irresponsible kid brought it to school. It’s still a firearm (pointing a finger and saying “bang” is a suspension or expulsion offense in most public schools) and the same penalties would apply to the mentioned 17-yr old kid and to me because the gun wasn’t locked away from the kid. What if the kid was 6 years old? For practical reasons and many of us do this for protection, I keep two semi-automatic 9mm handguns with a loaded magazine in the receiver, no round in the chamber and a second magazine in the holster in my home, quickly accessible almost all the time and with a handicapped child in the house, not trusted in a room with a window or unlocked door due to her leaving and getting lost in town. However, when she was in public school for 12 years, I knew it was possible, no, probable that she would take one of them to school (took a lot of our stuff to school and brought even more of someone’s stuff home) but she didn’t, yet once walked around the house with one and unable to chamber a round, was not a danger, even pointed it at me. Prior to that, all doors in the house had key locks and entrances had dead bolts to keep her from escaping but escaped numerous times anyway. The police were downright hostile about us not supervising her properly but they didn’t understand. Would I trade for a normal child? Would you trade a normal one for a handicapped child? The schools are afraid to teach gun safety, hunter safety, 4-H or marksmanship and it’s about time. I don’t visit public schools because I can’t park within 900 feet from a school or legally carry with a permit within 900 feet of a school. Something is wrong with that and many other related laws. I invited a State Patrolman to my school to give a safety talk to older students about firearms, alcohol and driving rules. Of those that drove, none had a DL or insurance. When he passed his empty revolver around the classroom and told them NOT to point the muzzle at anyone and to NOT pull the trigger, perhaps the 3rd one did just that, pointed at someone, pulled the trigger through and he said that is what accidentally kills young people, pulling the trigger on what is assumed an unloaded gun. I doubt such a demonstration could be done again with a real gun, perhaps the fake ones we see now.

  • Vic Johnson October 20, 2014, 6:19 pm

    If you own a gun of any kind it is your responsibility. If you do not lock the gun up ia a safe manner you should be found guilty.

  • Lancer October 20, 2014, 11:47 am

    Come on… We are talking about a 17 year old child. You mean to tell me that a 17 year old could not figure out how to circumvent any security measure you put in place, given enough time an resources? Fantasy!

    • william novak October 20, 2014, 12:47 pm

      Agree. A 17 yr old is not a child. One can join the Armed Forces at age 17 with parental permission. No one would refer to one
      who is a battle ready soldier a child. Perhaps we should examine more closely or revise the incongruous concept of teenagers as children.

      • T. Yanity October 20, 2014, 3:56 pm

        I agree a 17 yr old is not a child but if the mother had at least used a trigger lock she would be able to defend herself against the charges. All of my firearms have always been kept in a safe except for my carry gun which is in a small rapid access lock box next to my bed. I know where all of my weapons are at all times. If you think hiding your guns will keep your kids from finding them think again. My father hid his thinking I would never find them but I knew where all of them were. I was smart enough to never mess with them though.

  • Dave M October 20, 2014, 10:43 am

    Guess I may have been living in a cave the last 50+ years but back in the day, PARENTS were RESPONSIBLE for THEIR CHILDREN until the kid was 18 YEARS of AGE. Guess that concept might have been recinded or ???

  • Jonathan October 20, 2014, 5:54 am

    Owning a fire arm is a right but responsibility comes with that right. We fight daily for that right but need to fully recognize the responsibility that comes with it. Very tough to defend this lady, I see her a guilty.

  • The Centre October 20, 2014, 5:24 am

    While trigger locks can be a good idea for the people that cannot afford a real safe, it is NOT required by law.
    When reporters cannot get this simple example right, you should question ANY statement made by the media because they just vomit whatever they want in order to get readers. Their facts are indeed NOT anything but spew out of the rear of their bodies.

  • Aleln October 16, 2014, 3:40 pm

    Minor gained possession of parent’s unsecured firearm. Pretty cut and dried to me, parent is culpable.
    While my children were living in my house, every gun was under lock and key unless it was on my person. For short term storage I used one of the gun cabinets, for anything else I used the gun safe. Now that there are no children in the house, I leave my carry gun on my desk or by my bed while I’m in the house. If I’m out of the house, it’s either on me or safely locked up. It’s one of the responsibilities that comes along with owning firearms.

    • dr. K October 20, 2014, 6:41 am

      Agreed, 100%. If there might be a kid or anyone else not responsible enough to be around a firearm, lock up the guns or carry them on your person. That’s what I do… there’s too much good technology that allows quick access to the right people, and using that is a reasonable compromise. Safety first or we all suffer.

    • eb in oregon October 20, 2014, 4:40 pm

      This is such “claptrap.” What parent has ever been accountable for traffic accidents committed by their children for driving the family car? None I’d wager. So, why should a parent be held accountable for a firearm? Truly a double standard for emotional and political reasons. Not good enough.

      • chuck October 20, 2014, 8:14 pm

        Parents ARE financially liable for their children in an accident while driving a car. What do you think that signature is for to get your child a drivers license at 16?? Once they turn 18, then they can go out and get their own insurance, but until then…..YOU are responsible for them…..just like YOU SHOULD BE!!

        • dink winkerson October 22, 2014, 12:46 pm

          If he had killed someone, He could have been tried as an adult.

      • Terry Carter October 20, 2014, 9:43 pm

        Sorry.Eb- it’s the law in California: Each weapon to be trigger locked and in a locked storage cabinet. Ammo to be in separate locked container. We have to certify possession of a recognized “safe” when taking possession of a firearm. Could give you three or more pages of restrictions, but this covers this article.

    • Bill W October 30, 2014, 11:35 am

      Agree here too. Only if the gun did NOT come from the home would the parent NOT be held responsible. If the child has unauthorized access to a registered/owned gun then the parent IS responsible for any actions the child may take, up to and including aiding and abetting a murder if the gun had been used to shoot anyone.

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