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Criminal Jury Instructions

Criminal Jury Instructions Home

8.2-23  Criminally Negligent Storage of a Firearm -- § 53a-217a

Revised to December 1, 2007

The defendant is charged [in count __] with criminally negligent storage of a firearm.  The statute defining this offense reads in pertinent part as follows: 

a person is guilty of criminally negligent storage of a firearm when (he/she) improperly stores a firearm1 and a minor obtains the firearm and causes the injury or death of (himself/herself) or any other person.

For you to find the defendant guilty of this charge, the state must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt: 

Element 1 - Improperly stored firearm
The first element is that the defendant improperly stored a firearm.  A "firearm" is any sawed-off shotgun, machine gun, rifle, shotgun, pistol, revolver or other weapon.2

Another statute provides that a person improperly stores a firearm when (he/she) stores any loaded firearm on any premises under (his/her) control if (he/she) knows or reasonably should know that a minor is likely to gain access to the firearm unless the firearm is kept in a securely locked box or other container or in a location which a reasonable person would believe to be secure or carries the firearm on (his/her) person or within such close proximity thereto that (he/she) can readily retrieve and use it as if (he/she) carried it on his person.  <Insert allegations of improper storage.>3

To find that the defendant improperly stored firearms, you must find that the defendant was criminally negligent.4  A person acts with "criminal negligence" with respect to a result or to a circumstance described by a statute defining an offense when he fails to perceive a substantial and unjustifiable risk that such result will occur or that such circumstance exists. The risk must be of such nature and degree that the failure to perceive it constitutes a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would observe in the situation.  <See Criminal Negligence, Instruction 2.3-5.>

Element 2 - Obtained by minor
The second element is that a minor obtained the firearm as a result of the improper storage.  A minor is any person under sixteen years of age.

Element 3 - Minor caused injury or death
The third element is that the minor caused injury or death to (himself / herself) or another person with the firearm. 

Conclusion

In summary, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant improperly stored a firearm, 2) as a result of the improper storage, a minor obtained the firearm, and 3) the minor caused injury or death to (himself / herself) or another person with the firearm. 

If you unanimously find that the state has proved beyond a reasonable doubt each of the elements of the crime of the criminally negligent storage of a firearm, then you shall find the defendant guilty.  On the other hand, if you unanimously find that the state has failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt any of the elements, you shall then find the defendant not guilty.
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1 The statute refers to § 29-37i, which is titled "Responsibilities re storage of loaded firearms with respect to minors."

2 See definitions for machine gun, rifle, shotgun, pistol or revolver in the glossary.

3 See § 29-37i.  "The most appropriate and efficient means to achieve the goal of restricting access to a loaded firearm depends on facts uniquely within the knowledge of the individual gun owner.  The most obvious variables include the ages of children in the household, the physical layout of the home, and the availability of locked safes or closets.  A high shelf in a closet may be a secure location when the only child in the household is a toddler, but when older children are present in the home, it may be necessary to use trigger locks and a locked container.  Therefore, while the individual gun owner may reasonably determine what he or she must do to 'secure' a weapon and a jury that is privy to the relevant facts may do so as well, it would be virtually impossible for the legislature to explicitly define what 'secure' means for every situation. . . .  It is appropriate and necessary to leave this determination to the finder of fact."  (Citations omitted.)  State v. Wilchinski, 242 Conn. 211, 228 (1997).

4 State v. Wilchinski, supra, 242 Conn. 232.

Commentary

In State v. Wilchinski, supra, 242 Conn. 211, the Supreme Court rejected the defendant's claim that § 53a-217a was unconstitutionally void for vagueness.

Subsection (b) of the statute provides an exception  if the "minor obtains the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry to any premises by any person."  "[W]here exceptions to a prohibition in a criminal statute are situated separately from the enacting clause, the exceptions are to be proven by the defense."  (Internal quotation marks omitted.)  State v. Valinski, 254 Conn. 107, 123 (2000) (rule also applies when the exception is found in a separate statute).
 


 

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