Father Faces Charges in Toddler’s Accidental Death

The death of a 2-year-old boy in an accidental shooting has led to his father being charged with misdemeanor failure to properly and safely store his firearms.

According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, about 500 people die each year in unintentional shootings in the U.S. The 535 deaths in accidental shootings make up 1% of all gun-related deaths in this country. North Carolina has the 12th-highest rate of gun injuries.

Boy Found Loaded Gun in Dad’s Truck

The father of a 2-year-old who died of an accidental gunshot to the head in Benson is charged with failing to keep the gun in a safe place.

The Johnston County District Attorney's Office authorized criminal charges against Warren Tyler Oser about two weeks after his son’s death on Oct. 15. The district attorney alleges that the father failed to properly and safely store his firearms to protect minors, in violation of North Carolina General Statue 14-315.1.

Deputies found the toddler with a gunshot wound near a car on the family’s property. The child accidentally shot himself while playing with his father's loaded Smith & Wesson 40-caliber handgun.

The gun had been in the front seat of his father's truck. The young boy apparently climbed into the pickup through an open door.

Authorities took the child to Johnston Medical Center Clayton, where he died from his injuries.

After reviewing the incident report from the sheriff's office, the district attorney filed charges.

"My heart goes out to the parents as they grieve the loss of their son," said Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle in a statement. "These tragedies are 100% preventable by safely storing all weapons away from minor children as required by statute. This is not about the rightful ownership of guns. This is about the responsibility of gun owners to protect minors by ensuring all weapons are kept safely away from children."

North Carolina Gun Storage Laws

The Tarheel state does not prescribe how firearms must be stored. There is no gun lock or lockbox mandate. The law does require gun owners living with a minor to keep the gun in a place where the youth cannot access it. "Minor" as used in this statute means a person under 18 years of age who is not emancipated.

The statute for “Storage of firearms to protect minors” reads as follows:

Any person who resides in the same premises as a minor, owns or possesses a firearm, and stores or leaves the firearm (i) in a condition that the firearm can be discharged and (ii) in a manner that the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised minor would be able to gain access to the firearm, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor if a minor gains access to the firearm without the lawful permission of the minor's parents or a person having charge of the minor and the minor:

  • Possesses it in violation of G.S. 14-269.2(b)
  • Exhibits it in a public place in a careless, angry, or threatening manner
  • Causes personal injury or death with it not in self-defense
  • Uses it in the commission of a crime

Nothing in this section shall prohibit a person from carrying a firearm on his or her body or placed in such close proximity that it can be used as easily and quickly as if carried on the body.

This section shall not apply if the minor obtained the firearm as a result of an unlawful entry by any person.

Consequences for Unsafe Gun Storage

The father of the 2-year-old was charged with one count of unsafe storage. The offense is a Class 1 misdemeanor. Possible jail time runs between 1 and 120 days. There is no limit to how much the court can assess in fines.

Circumstances When Unintentional Shootings Happen

One study found that, across all ages, the most common circumstances in which an unintentional gun death occurs are:

  • Playing with a gun (28.3%)
  • Believing that the gun was not loaded (17.2%)
  • Hunting (13.8%)

Preventing Accidental Shootings

Safely storing firearms is always important and particularly so when minors are around. Special care should also be exercised when an elderly person with dementia or other cognitive issues is in the home.

Suggestions for safe gun storage include the following:

  • Keep guns and ammunition separate.
  • Use gun locks on pistols.
  • Store firearms in a gun safe or lock box.

Suggestions for safely handling firearms include the following:

  • Treat the gun as if it is loaded.
  • Keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • Do not put your finger on the trigger until you are ready to shoot.
  • Keep the gun unloaded until you are ready to use it.
  • Use proper ammunition.
  • Be sure the barrel is clear of obstructions before loading and shooting.
  • Do not assume the gun's safety mechanism will keep it from firing.

Gun-safety classes and other related training provide additional insight into safe gun ownership.

Defense Counsel for Gun Law Violations

At Jetton & Meredith, PLLC, we approach misdemeanor cases with the same tenacity as the most serious felony cases. A misdemeanor charge can substantially impact a defendant’s quality of life.

Not only are jail time and fines possible, but the conviction becomes part of your criminal record. Access to certain housing and job opportunities is diminished. Non-violent misdemeanor offenders must wait at least five years before they can petition to have the violation expunged from their record in North Carolina.

If you are facing a misdemeanor or felony weapons charge, schedule a consultation with our team. We will immediately get to work fighting for your rights and reducing possible consequences. Send us an online message or call (704) 931-5535.