Senator Jim Holzapfel’s (R-10) legislation to increase penalties for leaving a loaded firearm within easy access of a minor resulting in injury or death was approved by the New Jersey Senate in a 32-0 vote.
Sen. Jim Holzapfel’s legislation increases penalties for leaving a loaded firearm within easy access of a minor resulting in injury or death. (©iStock)
This bill was prompted by the tragic death of 6-year-old Brandon Holt, who was shot and killed by a 4-year-old friend with a gun that was left unsecured and accessible to the children in the house.
“As a former prosecutor, gun owner and supporter of the Second Amendment, I find it unconscionable that some gun owners could be so irresponsible,” said Holzapfel. “This legislation balances the rights of responsible gun owners with the public interest of reducing preventable deaths from planned and accidental shootings by children.”
The bill, S-218, increases penalties for knowingly allowing a minor to gain access to loaded, unlocked firearms at a legal gun owner’s premises. It also covers those who reasonably should know a minor could access their loaded, unlocked weapon.
Under current law, if a minor accesses a loaded firearm due to the owner’s failure to follow proper safety precautions, such as storing the gun in a locked box or container or securing the trigger lock, that person is guilty of a disorderly person’s offense. The proposed legislation upgrades the offense to a crime of the fourth degree if a violation results in bodily injury and a crime of the third degree if a violation results in serious bodily injury or death.
“We have seen far too many senseless tragedies occur when kids have had easy access to loaded, unlocked guns,” Holzapfel added. “Hopefully, the potential for increased fines and jail time imposed by this legislation will encourage people to secure their firearms at all times.”
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