A Chesterfield County man faces a possible jail term of up to 12 months if he is convicted under a new Virginia gun law that boosts the punishment for “recklessly” leaving a loaded firearm near a child.
Radell J. Bolden, 36, of the 500 block of Cattail Road, was charged last week with leaving a loaded firearm where a juvenile male related to him had access to the weapon. The boy retrieved the gun and inadvertently shot himself in the hand, police said. The child did not suffer a life-threatening injury.
Bolden is one of the first people in Chesterfield to be charged under a new gun law passed by the Democratic-led General Assembly that makes it a Class 1 misdemeanor to recklessly leave a loaded, unsecured gun around children under 14 in a manner that endangers their life or safety.
If convicted, Bolden faces a jail term of up to 12 months and a fine of up to $2,500.
Under the old law, a person convicted of the offense — then a Class 3 misdemeanor — would face a fine of up to $250 but no jail time.
In a separate case, Dylan W. White, 27, of the 500 block of Cattail Road, was charged last week with a similar offense, but because the incident occurred May 22, he will not be subject to the stricter penalty. The new law became effective July 1.
In that case, police said White left a loaded gun where a juvenile, who is related to him, had access to the firearm and it discharged when he attempted to move it. No one was injured.
Sen. Janet Howell, D-Fairfax, the primary sponsor of a Senate bill that led to the passage of an amended version of the law, told lawmakers last year that that measure was mainly targeted at decreasing teen suicide rates. Advocates from gun control and health groups agreed.
“The goal is to try and prevent teen suicides,” Howell said at the time. “We’re averaging about 30 a year, that might be saved by this bill.”
Howell’s original bill, which was later amended, would have made the offense a Class 6 felony for leaving an unsecured gun around children under 18.
The new law was one of seven gun control measures advocated by Gov. Ralph Northam that were passed by state lawmakers and signed into law.
They were part of a package of measures Northam sought last year after the May 31 shooting in Virginia Beach in which a gunman killed 12 people at a municipal building.