DEATH AND INJURY BY FIREARMS
In Michigan in the year 2001, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 3,273 people died from firearm related injuries. That’s an average of nine per day. In that same year, 3,955 others were treated for non-fatal gun injuries. This does not include unreported injuries. Nationally, in 1999, 3365 young people alone were killed by firearms, with approximately four times that many wounded by guns.
Consider that 40% of U.S. homes contain firearms. It is estimated that 3.3 million children live in homes where a firearm is at times left loaded and not secured under locks. This is a significant part of the answer to the question: where young people get the guns they use to either accidentally or intentionally kill and wound others?
If your life has been touched by gun violence, you should inform yourself as to what remedies the law provides you. If the shooting was accidental, the negligent people can be made to pay the damages they caused. However, even where a morally and financially irresponsible person intentionally causes injury or death, it does not mean that others cannot be legally responsible.
In Michigan, as in many other states, there are laws imposing strict liability on gun owners who do not secure their firearms, if those guns are then used by someone else to maim and kill. Michigan’s Civil Code Section 1714.3 automatically imposes liability up to $30,000 for allowing a minor under the age of 18 to gain access to an unsecured firearm that is then discharged and wounds or kills a person. Of course, standard negligence laws also impose liability without limit upon careless gun owners.
What is not so obvious is that standard home owners’ insurance policies can cover a gun owner’s negligence in this respect, even though he was not handling the firearm at the time, and even though the person who did use the firearm shot someone on purpose.
In view of the prevalence of firearms in American homes, parents should inquire of the parents of their children’s friends whether they keep firearms, and if so where and how are they secured. Condo association attorneys in Michigan say that you should ask your association if you’re allowed to have guns in your home.
If tragedy strikes, you should consult legal counsel quickly before evidence is lost. Even in instances of gang violence, if the gang member got his pistol from his parents’ home, it is possible to resort to their homeowner’s insurance to pay medical bills, rehabilitation costs, or in the case of fatality, money damages for the loss of the society, comfort, companionship, and support of the loved one whose life was taken.
Though money will not bring back a loved one, it should also be considered that for every careless gun owner who enables a tragedy to occur, when he is brought to court and made to pay, other gun owners will learn the necessity of securing their firearms so that the lives of other children and adults are not lost or ruined.