ACLU-PA Position: Opposes
HB 1629 (PN 2306) would create a new section under Title 18 to require safe storage of firearms in locations where minors might access those firearms and new criminal offenses for violating the bill's requirements. Specifically, if the failure to secure a firearm results in a minor gaining access to the firearm, parents (or other adults required to keep the firearm secure) would be charged with:
- A summary offense with no term of imprisonment when the offense is a first offense.
- A misdemeanor of the third degree when the offense was committed after the person was sentenced for a prior offense under this section.
Additionally, HB 1629 would create a new, third-degree misdemeanor offense if a firearm retailer fails to post the required notice regarding firearm storage requirements and related penalties.
The ACLU-PA would not object to establishing safe storage requirements for firearms or to imposing civil penalties if a minor accesses an unsecured firearm. However, holding parents (or other adults) vicariously criminally liable for actions of their children or another minor is, especially in this scenario, excessive. The ACLU-PA opposes any effort to impose vicarious criminal liability. Even criminal law tends to limit vicarious criminal liability to situations such as criminal conspiracy, accomplice liability, or felony murder. Not only does failure to secure a firearm meet these thresholds, but HB 1629 would criminally charge parents if their child accesses the firearm, even if the minor causes no harm to themselves or others after gaining possession of it.
Check the bill's status here.