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Should Gun Owners Be Liable If Their Guns Are Used in a Crime?

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Gun control is expected to be a major flashpoint in the upcoming session of the Virginia General Assembly, and lawmakers are preparing a long list of potential new laws.

What kind of liability should gun owners have if their firearms are used to commit a crime? Senator Dave Marsden, a Democrat from Fairfax County, says gun owners need to be held responsible.

“All guns start out legal, and then 60% of the guns that end up being used in crimes or in suicides are in the hands of people who don’t own them or didn’t originally own them. We’re careless with our guns.”

Legal expert Rich Kelsey says he doubts this would stand up to legal challenges in the court system.

“For you to make a gun owner liable for injuries because his gun was lost or stolen and a third party used it in the commission of a crime or for injuries would turn tort law upside down.”

In other words, people are usually held accountable for what they do — not what someone else does. Kelsey says a significant break from that long standing legal precedent might have unforeseen consequences for other parts of the law.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.