If someone was suicidal in past months, can you be held liable for returning that person’s guns to them?

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If someone was suicidal in past months, can you be held liable for returning that person’s guns to them?

My wife and I are separated and she has requested that I return a pair of firearms (rifles) to her that were passed down from her father. She tried to commit suicide back 6 months ago by overdosing on prescription medication. While I do not think morally it is a good idea to return the firearms to her, she is being very insistent. So I was wondering, if she were to attempt to harm herself with the firearms after I returned them to her could I be liable?

Asked on November 8, 2011 under Personal Injury, Oregon

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You would most likely not face criminal liability for her suicide or attempted suicide--though it's not impossible a prosecutor could try to charge you, if he believed she was mentally incompetent (e.g. by reason of mental illness) at the time and you deliberately took advantage of that state to cause her death. There is a good chance that you could face civil liability (e.g. be sued by her parents), since it could easily be the case that it would be found to be negligent, or unreasonably careless, to return guns to someone who had tried to commit suicide less than a year ago. You may be best off holding onto the guns and, if she really wants them, letting her take legal action to get them back from you; in that case, if you hand them over only pursuant to a court order, you would almost certainly not be responsible for anything happening subsequently.


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