Child access prevention laws protect minors from getting a hold of guns. These laws serve many purposes, but their primarily purpose is protecting young people from self-harming. One University of Indianapolis study found that having a firearm in the home increased the risk of teen and pre-teen suicide. According to another study, almost 5 million kids in America have access to an unlocked firearm in their homes. Both state and federal child access prevention (CAP) laws have been proven to decrease homicide and suicide rates. In Illinois, violating a CAP law is a Class C Misdemeanor. Many people are pushing for it to become a felony. If you are facing this charge, contact a criminal justice attorney right away.
Illinois CAP law
In Illinois, several things have to happen for a person to violate the state’s child access prevention law (720 ILCS 5/24-9). First, you make a firearm available to a minor on your property. “Firearm” includes any type of gun or device that uses an explosion or gas to expel a projectile or projectiles. “Property” includes any premise under your control (your home, your car, your storage unit). “Make available” means storing in a place where a minor could easily gain access to it (an unlocked drawer, on top of the refrigerator, in the trunk of a car).
Second, the minor who gets a hold of the firearm must cause “death or great bodily harm” with the weapon. So, if a child finds a gun sitting in an unlocked drawer and simply picks it up and puts it down, you cannot be charged.
Violators will be charged with a Class C Misdemeanor and an automatic minimum $1,000 fine. The charge increases to a Class A Misdemeanor for any subsequent charges.
What counts as a minor?
In Illinois, when it comes to CAP laws, a minor is anyone under the age of 14 years old who does not have a Firearm Owner’s Identification (FOID) card. FOID cards are only issued to adults aged 21 or older. However, if a parent or guardian allows it, someone under the age of 21 may be able to obtain an FOID card.
There are several exceptions to Illinois’ CAP law. A person cannot be charged for this crime if any of the following occur:
- The firearm is equipped with a mechanism that makes it impossible to fire (other than the safety on the gun)
- The firearm is in a locked container
- The minor uses the firearm in self-defense
- The minor uses the firearm to protect the life of another person
- The minor illegally broke into the home to obtain the firearm
- The weapon in question is a paintball gun, airsoft gun, or BB gun
Basically, these laws hold gun owners accountable for the way they store their firearms. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, gun violence in U.S. communities and homes has increased. If you or someone you know is facing charges for firearm storage or violating CAP law, contact Richard at Fenbert & Associates today for a free consultation.