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Indiana On Tragic Streak Of Accidental Shootings

Last updated on Tuesday, July 19, 2011

(UNDATED) - Indiana is on a tragic streak of accidental shootings of children.

But state law draws a fine line on whether parents in those cases end up facing criminal charges.

There's no such thing in Indiana as criminal negligence. Just forgetting to lock the gun cabinet is unlikely to lead to charges.

But leaving a gun out in plain view would be considered not just careless, but reckless.

To prove recklessness, Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council Executive Director Stephen J. Johnson says prosecutors must show "plain, conscious and unjustifiable disregard of the harm that might result."

Legislators specifically made it a crime in 1994 to recklessly permit a child to have a gun, following a similar run of tragic shootings.

The law was amended in 1996. A conviction carries up to eight years in prison.

But Johnson says it's up to prosecutors to decide whether the facts of a specific case fit the standard.

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