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St. Petersburg, Florida

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Bob Carroll
Bob Carroll
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Why Not Require The Highest Standard Of Care In Storing Firearms?

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A Florida Appellate Court decision informs us that a reasonable careful person is not required to use the highest degree of care in regard to the safe storage of a firearm. Call me crazy, but I feel it would be certifiably unreasonable for anyone not to use the highest degree of care in safely storing a firearm. Why would we accept a lower or the lowest degree of care in dealing with a gun which is considered a dangerous instrumentality?

NATHAN ZUVER v. GERALD GOTTNER

Gottner kept a Glock pistol with a laser sight in his vehicle’s center console. He kept a spare key inside the vehicle’s gas cap. Gottner knew that his seventeen-year-old grandson, David, was aware the key was kept there. David and his seventeen-year-old friend, Billy Mack, used the key to enter the vehicle and take the pistol without permission. Billy was playing with the laser at Zuver’s house when the gun discharged, injuring Zuver.

Zuver sued Gottner, claiming he was “under the duty to exercise the highest degree of care towards” him. He requested that the jury be instructed that Gottner “had a duty to use the highest degree of care for Nathan Zuver’s safety”…”The reasonable care required of the owner of a gun is the highest degree of care.”

Instead, consistent with Florida Standard Jury Instruction 4.1, the trial court instructed the jury that: “Negligence is the failure to use reasonable care. Reasonable care is the degree of care which a reasonable careful person would use under like circumstances.”

[The opinion agreed with the instruction given by the trial court.]

An instruction that Gottner was required to use “the highest degree of care” would have removed from the jury’s determination how much care a reasonable man should use in safeguarding his weapon.

I am prepared to remove from a jury’s determination how much care should be used in safeguarding a weapon. It should always be care that qualifies as the highest degree of care.