by James Phillips, Jr.
With Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching many of us are making plans to get together with friends and family. If you are hosting this holiday season it is important to make sure your firearms are properly stored. If any of your guests will be under the age of 16, then you must secure all loaded firearms either in a locked box or container or in a location that a reasonable person would believe to be secure or by placing a trigger lock on the loaded firearm as required by Florida Statute 790.174. This storage requirement only applies to loaded firearms that are not on your body or in a location so close to you that you could retrieve the firearm as easily and quickly as if it was on your person. Therefore, you can openly carry or conceal carry a loaded firearm in your home regardless if you have guest under the age of 16 or not. If you fail to comply with the requirements of Florida Statute 790.174 and a guest under the age of 16 takes your loaded firearm without your permission and displays it in a rude, careless, angry or threatening manner in public, then you could be charged with a second degree misdemeanor punishable up to 60 days in jail. Furthermore, you could face felony charges for culpable negligence if the guest under the age of 16 uses your firearm to cause injury or death to himself/herself or another person as a result of your improper storage of the firearm and face up to 5 years in prison. Besides facing criminal charges you may also find yourself being sued civilly for your negligent storage.
Of course, It is always a good idea to secure your firearms in a safe location even if none of your holiday guests are under the age of 16. This does not only shield you from possible criminal charges or civil liabilities, but also ensures that your loaded firearms do not end up in the possession of a guests who is either prohibited by law from having possession of firearms, such as a convicted felon, or who should not have accesses to firearms for various reasons such as mental state or intoxication.