The owners of a gun used by a convicted felon to shoot his girlfriend and then himself cannot be held responsible for leaving the gun unsecured, North Carolina’s State Supreme Court ruled on June 13, 2013.
In March 2011, Bernie Parrish drove to his girlfriend Catryn Bridges’ place of work and shot her in the stomach using a gun he stole from his parents. He later killed himself with the same weapon. Bridges survived the shooting and brought a personal injury claim against Parrish’s parents for failing to secure their gun despite knowing that their son was a convicted felon prone to violence and prohibited by law from owning a firearm. The North Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed the case, ruling that Bridges could not prove that Parrish’s actions were foreseeable and that his parents could have avoided the incident by taking proper precautions.
The Supreme Court affirmed. The Court held that the only way Parrish’s parents could be found responsible for the criminal acts of their son would be if they had a special relationship with the victim. With a special relationship, the Parrishes would have had a duty to protect Bridges from unnecessary harm. In this case, Parrish didn’t contend that she and Parrish’s parents had such a special relationship.
The Supreme Court also found that there is no legal requirement in North Carolina for gun owners to store their guns securely. Given that, Justice Mark Martin said that holding gun owners responsible for the actions of unauthorized users would “unfairly burden those who lawfully own and store guns in their own homes.”