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Should a person injured by a stolen gun be permitted to sue the original owner thereof for damages?

Imagine that a person's firearm is stolen, then used in a crime to injure an innocent person. Can the crime victim sue the owner of the gun for damages? Would it matter if the gun was left in plain sight or not locked away? Would it matter if the gun was stolen months or years before the crime? Also, what if the gun owner lent his gun to another person who he reasonably thought was honest and law-abiding?

David Wood , 09.01.2013, 14:39
Idea status: completed


DianaHsieh, 15.01.2013, 20:58
Here's the original question:

if a gun is stolen and used in a crime, is there a legal or moral claim for the victims of that crime to sue the (former) gun owner?

is there a moral or legal argument to me made to hold a gun owner responsible if his or her gun (or any weapon, for that matter) is stolen and used in a crime? Do the victims of that crime have a claim against the gun owner, presumably on the grounds that they failed to secure a self-evidently dangerous item? The claim would (presumably) be for damages due to the weapon, and not for criminal liability. Would this depend on the measures taken by the gun owner to secure it? Measures might range from none at all (gun was left on seat of unlocked car) to minor (gun was in the trunk of a car that was stolen) to extreme (gun was in locked safe that was only broken open with extreme technology). How far back would such responsibility extend (if at all)? One month? One year? five years? Would it apply only to "legal" owners of guns? i.e., if the victim could show that a person was in possession of it prior to the crime, regardless of the nature of that possession, can that person be held responsible in some way for the damages caused by the gun in the crime. Finally, what happens if the gun is merely "loaned" to the criminal, e.g., the gun is loaned (by a responsible person) to what he *believes* is a responsible person, who then goes on a robbery spree with it. There was no failure to secure a dangerous item . . . the item was freely transferred in ignorance of the risk involved. Does this change the moral or legal culpability, assuming there is any beyond the actual perpetrator?
David Wood, 18.01.2013, 17:27
There's an interesting opportunity for the law of unintended consequences to act here: if this idea was implemented by the courts (holding the "legal" (i.e., registered) owners of stolen weapons responsible for the damages they cause), it would likely work against anyone wanting to register their weapons.

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