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Gifting a deadly weapon

It’s no surprise that Texans love their guns. Hunting and shooting are common past-times enjoyed by many families, especially in South Texas, and often include minors handling firearms. But what happens if something goes terribly wrong? KSAT 12 in San Antonio recently interviewed Flanary Law Firm, PLLC, owner Don Flanary about an accidental shooting that occurred a few weeks ago here in Bexar County. The video can be found here: https://www.ksat.com/news/news-at-9/why-sa-grandfather-was-charged-in-connection-with-an-accidental-shooting-death.

The incident occurred after a 75-year-old man, Robert Lee Voight, bought an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle as a gift for his14-year-old grandson. As Don Flanary and Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar told KSAT 12, simply gifting a gun to a minor does not, by itself, violate the law. A crime does occur, however, when a gun is left unattended in a spot where a minor can access it at anytime.

In Mr. Voight’s case, that is exactly what happened. KSAT 12 reported that the 14-year-old grandson, unsupervised, attempted to clean the AR-15 when it accidentally went off, shooting his 13-year-old friend in the head and killing him instantly.

While federal law requires a person to be at least 18-years-old in order to buy a long gun and 21 to buy a handgun, the law only applies to purchases from a licensed dealer. As Don Flanary explained to KSAT 12, “private transfers” of guns are allowed in Texas, and federal law is different when it concerns unlicensed dealers.

Don Flanary told KSAT 12 that while “Someone under the age of 18 couldn’t walk into Academy and buy an AR-15, but they could go to a gun show and buy one or their grandfather could give them one because those are private sales, private transfers.”

Don Flanary further explained that Texas law does hold adults criminally liable for guns that aren’t secured. “If a child gains access to readily dischargeable firearm with criminal negligence fails to secure the firearm, so if I leave a gun out, even if I don’t give it to my grandson, if I leave it out and the kids play with it, that’s a crime.”

The tragic loss of the 13-year-old friend of Mr. Voight’s grandson should serve as a reminder to all gun owners that safety should always come first. Even Sheriff Salazar commented, “It’s okay to have guns in your home, just make sure that you are doing so safely. I think this is a perfect example of what not to do with a gun.”