North Carolina Gun Show Operators, Gun Owners, Could Face Liability for Injuries

Although a shotgun owner won’t be charged with any crime, after the weapon accidentally fired and injured three people – including a retired sheriff’s deputy – at a recent gun show, our North Carolina personal injury lawyers know that both the owner and the show’s organizers may have to contend with civil liability issues.blackgun3.jpg

Such incidents have been historically rare, but they appear to be increasing in the midst of the debate over gun control measures at both the federal and state level, following the deadly shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

In this case, the owner of a 12-guage shotgun accidentally fired the weapon as he was removing it from a case at a security checkpoint at the weapons show held at the fairgrounds in Raleigh. The retired deputy and two others were hurt, though their injuries were not expected to be life-threatening.

That same day, which was deemed the first annual Gun Appreciation Day, two other similar shootings occurred in other states.

At a fairground in Iowa, a gun dealer was reportedly testing what he thought was an unloaded pistol when the weapon fired, resulting in a gunshot wound to his own hand.

Also that day at a gun show in Ohio, a gun dealer was opening a case containing a gun when the weapon fired and a single shot struck the man’s partner in the arm and thigh.

In yet another incident in Indiana, a man leaving a gun show was reportedly attempting to load his own handgun when the weapon fired, causing him to incur a gunshot wound to the hand.

In each of these cases, it appears authorities intend to clear the individuals of any criminal wrongdoing, as none of the incidents were apparently intentional and the individuals didn’t break any criminal laws in bringing the weapons – even loaded – to the events.

At this point, no civil lawsuits have been filed, but it’s possible, particularly in cases where someone besides the gun’s handler was injured. In cases like these, there could be liability on the part of the owner, for not properly securing a weapon, the handler, for negligently or recklessly handling the weapon and possibly even the event organizers, for failing to ensure the safety of those in attendance.

However, its worth noting that the majority of unintentional firearm injuries don’t occur at gun shows. Most such incidents occur in private residences, and about 20 percent of all firearm-related fatalities involve children under the age of 14.

Some 220 million Americans possess firearms, including about one-third of families with small children. There are a variety of reasons for owning a gun – including protection, hunting and recreation or crime prevention.

However, with that weapon comes a great responsibility. Safe storage of a firearm is key to preventing unintentional injury. The National Rifle Association advises the following:

  • Store your firearm in a well-concealed gun safe or lock box. Prevent unauthorized access by keeping it in a place that is hidden, but easily accessible to you.
  • Make sure your safe or lock box includes a secure locking device – most often a cable lock or a trigger lock.
  • Keep the gun unloaded. This is particularly important when you have it stored in your home or when you intend to take it to a show. This way, even if it falls into inexperienced hands, the consequences won’t be deadly.
  • Take the time to educate yourself on gun safety, and pass that knowledge onto your children as well – or any other children who may be in your home. Guns often arouse a great deal of curiosity, but children need to be taught early that handling a weapon should only ever be done under the supervision of a responsible adult.


Contact our North Carolina personal injury lawyers at Lee Law Offices today by calling 800-887-1965.

Additional Resources:
No charges expected in N.C. gun show shooting, Jan. 23, 2013, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:
Fairs, Festivals Put People at Risk for Injury at North Carolina Fall Events, Oct. 11, 2011, North Carolina Injury Lawyer Blog

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