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  • Writer's pictureBlair Goss

Child Access Prevention Law in California | Liability in a Family Fire Case!

In August 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB-452 (life-saving gun violence prevention bill) as part of the child access prevention laws in California. Under the new legislation, the state's education system will play a key role in educating parents about safe firearm storage to prevent "family fire."

It's important for Californians to know their state laws to prevent legal and financial troubles. The newly signed child access prevention laws hold people legally accountable for negligently storing firearms, leading to criminal and civil liability. It aims to reduce gun violence and unintentional injuries in the state.

Goss Law and its experienced criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience handling criminal cases and fighting prosecutors who are overly ambitious in their aim to punish the defendants. Those facing accusations or convictions in Sacramento, California, should contact them for legal representation.

The Impact of Gun Violence in California

The Impact of Gun Violence in California

Before learning more about the child access prevention law in California, it's important to understand the impact of gun violence on the state and its communities. In 2020, 3,449 people died due to gun violence, while 1,732 citizens became victims of firearm homicide.

According to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Hispanics and Latinos are three times more likely to become victims, with black males 14 times more likely to become victims of firearm homicide than their white counterparts.

A recent report published by the Giffords Law Center revealed that the gun homicide rate among young Hispanic/Latino and black males is 4.5 times and 17.3 times higher than their white counterparts. 

While the state gun homicide rate is lower than the national average, it is steadily rising and having an adverse impact on the youth and local communities.

Family Fire Statistics in California

Besides the gun homicide rate, one of the main things that is alarming is that 4.6 million children in California have access to unlocked firearms. 

According to End Family Fire, a campaign run by Brady and the Ad Council, around 70% of student shooters have access to legally purchased firearms through their relatives or family members. 87% of the children know where the guns are located in their homes, while 60% have handled them while unsupervised.

These grim statistics have become a focal point of Governor Gavin Newsome's political campaign in 2024. He's been vocal about his stance on gun control and stricter regulations while introducing new child access prevention and firearm safe storage laws.

What Are the Child Access Prevention and Safe Storage Laws in California?

Under state law, Californians must properly store their firearms and keep them away from children.

It is a crime for gun owners to store their weapons in a location where they know or reasonably should know that a child or anyone prohibited from possessing guns under state or federal law can gain access to them without the permission of the parents or guardians.

In some cases, the law holds gun owners responsible even if a minor child does not assess or use the firearm.

There are other child prevention laws in the state that have steeper penalties for when a minor child gains access to or uses a firearm. These include the following:

  • If a child gains access to weapons and carries them off the gun owner's property, the gun owner will be criminally liable, as they failed to store the weapons properly.

  • The state law also makes it a crime for gun owners to leave their loaded firearms in places where they know or should reasonably know that a minor can gain access. If the child gets their hand on the weapon and leaves the property with it, brandishing the gun, threatening someone, or injuring another person, it could lead to criminal liability. Under the law, the penalties are far more severe if the child's action results in injuries, great bodily harm, or death.

  • It is a crime for a gun owner to store a firearm in a place where they should know or should reasonably know that a minor can gain access. If the child takes the gun (loaded or unloaded weapon) and goes to a preschool, school, or any school-sponsored event, it could lead to criminal liability.

Are There Any Exceptions to the Child Access Prevention Laws?

While it may seem impossible for gun owners to escape criminal liability under the child access prevention laws, there are some exceptions. These include the following:

  • The gun owner stores the firearm in a locked container or place where a reasonable person would believe it to be secure;

  • The person had no reasonable expectation for a child to be on their premises;

  • The gun owner safely locks a firearm in a locking device, rendering it inoperable;

  • The minor gained access to the gun through illegal means, including trespassing; and

  • The child gains access to the firearm to protect themselves or others who are in grave danger.

What Are the Civil Consequences for Violating the Safe Firearm Storage Laws?

While the criminal penalties (fines, jail time, or a combination of both) depend on the facts surrounding the case, injured victims can pursue a personal injury claim or lawsuit against the negligent party to recover the damages caused. The state places a maximum cap of $30,000 per victim and $60,000 in total.

Are There Firearms Safety Device Laws in California?

Any licensed dealer selling firearms in California must also include a firearms safety device, which locks a weapon and prevents unauthorized users from accessing it. 

A weapon safety device is different than a gun safe and could be something that comes with the firearm, attaches to it, or simply prevents access.

It's important to note that the firearm safety device law requires licensed gun dealers to include safety devices (during gun sales) that are mentioned on the list of approved firearms safety devices compiled by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

There are different standards applicable to long gun safes. These units must comply with the DoJ guidelines, and if they do not meet the necessary benchmark, the manufacturer must display a warning sign in English and Spanish.

Under state law, long gun safes must also have a locking mechanism (electronic or mechanical) with at least 1,000 possible unique combinations. Every combination should contain at least three numbers, letters, or symbols.

Can AB-452 Prevent Gun Violence?

According to Brady President Kris Brown, AB-452 will help prevent access to guns by holding the gun owner liable (criminal and civil liability) for any damages caused due to their negligent storage of firearms.

Through education and spreading information, California aims to lead the way in gun violence prevention efforts.

Avoiding Trouble with the Law

Avoiding Trouble with the Law

Citizens must stay updated with the latest laws and regulations to avoid trouble with the relevant authorities.

Even if gun owners follow the child access prevention law, a child (below the age of 18 years) who is adamant about locating the firearm will do everything in their will to find it and use it. 

In such situations, the prosecution may be quick to blame the gun owner for any consequences caused by the reckless actions of the minor.

It's important for defendants to reach out to experienced criminal defense attorneys to discuss their case and learn more about their legal options. They can also answer questions like Is concealed carry without a permit legal in California?

Goss Law Can Tackle the Prosecutors and Their Foul Intentions!

In most cases, criminal defendants become victims of foul play, which is often perpetrated by greedy prosecutors looking for a career jump. Goss Law and a Sacramento gun charge attorney know the legal process and have the skills to navigate complex court proceedings.

Those accused of violating the child access prevention law in Sacramento, California, should call to schedule a free consultation with the reputable criminal defense attorneys at Goss Law. They can assess the facts surrounding the case, build a strong defense, and fight for the defendant's rights.


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