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Gun Owners Are Obligated to Store their Weapons Safely

Posted by attorney Jeremy Geigle

25-year old Nick Bell and his friend, 24-year-old Jeffrey Charbonneau were invited to stay at the Vermont home of Jim Goodwin on the night before Thanksgiving. In the morning, Bell came into the room where Charbonneau was sleeping to wake him up. Jokingly, Bell took a .22-caliber semi-automatic rifle, with no safety engaged, off of a wall in the room and began walking around the bed with it. The rifle went off accidentally and a bullet entered Charbonneau’s heart from the side, instantly killing him. Bell pleaded no contest to felony charges of manslaughter, and misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and assault with a weapon. He was sentenced to one year in prison.

The rifle belonged to Jim’s brother, Charlie, who was out of town visiting family. While Jim was the only member of the Goodwin family at home when Charbonneau was killed, the entire family is being sued for wrongful death because the gun wasn’t stored safely. David Cleary, representing attorney for the Charbonneau family, explains that “If you ask a guest over, you have a duty to maintain your premises in reasonably safe condition," and that “the constitutional right to bear arms doesn’t negate a gun-owner’s legal obligations to use and store weapons in a safe manner."

In Arizona, if you fail to store your weapons safely and someone is hurt because of your negligence, you can be charged with endangerment, among other potential offenses.

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