BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts, a state with one of the strictest gun-storage laws in the country, had one fatal accidental shooting of a child under the age of 12 from 2014 to 2016.
The Associated Press and the USA TODAY Network examined 152 accidents from 2014 to 2016 in which children under age 12 either killed themselves or were mistakenly shot and killed by another child. The review found that about half of those deaths led to a criminal charge, usually against adults who police and prosecutors say should have watched the children more closely or secured their guns more carefully. In the remaining cases, officials decided the adults had broken no laws, or perhaps had simply suffered enough.
Here’s a look at Massachusetts’ gun storage law, designed to keep guns away from unauthorized users, especially children:
Gun storage law
Massachusetts gun-owners are required to keep their firearms in locked containers or equip them with a tamper-resistant mechanical lock or other safety device that makes them inoperable by anyone other than the owner or authorized users. The law prohibits gun owners from keeping guns in places where children might gain access to them.
Penalties for improper gun storage
In cases in which children gaining access to unsecured guns results in injury or death, the law considers that evidence of wanton or reckless conduct. The gun’s owner can be charged with involuntary manslaughter. The charge carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.
Between 2014 and 2016, Massachusetts had one fatal accidental shooting involving a child under 12. In 2014, Juanly Pena, then 14, shot and killed his 9-year-old brother, Janmarcos Pena, in their Boston home with a semi-automatic handgun he thought was unloaded. Prosecutors said Juanly Pena borrowed a gun from a friend, claiming he had been threatened by gang members at school and in his neighborhood. Pena admitted to charges of manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm in the death of his brother. A judge sentenced him to be held in a youth detention center until he turns 21, followed by probation.
In 2007, 8-year-old Liquarry Jefferson was accidentally killed by his 7-year-old cousin after the boys found a loaded 9 mm handgun in a dresser in Liquarry’s Boston apartment. Liquarry’s mother was charged with involuntary manslaughter for allegedly knowingly allowing her teenage son to keep the gun in the apartment. She was acquitted. Her older son later admitted he brought the gun into the apartment, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to a youth detention center until the age of 21.