Let's say I drop my gun on the street (accidentally or not). A man walks by, picks up my gun, and shoots himself in the head.

Should I be convicted?


The legal question is whether you can be convicted of a crime under the laws of some jurisdiction on earth. I'll start by assuming that you are in a jurisdiction where you can legally possess firearms and carry them in public. Since you added "and commits suicide", I assume you're not asking if it is a crime to drop a firearm, the question is just criminal culpability for this consequence. Now we will zoom into the laws of a specific jurisdiction, Washington state. RCW 9A.36.060 says

A person is guilty of promoting a suicide attempt when he or she knowingly causes or aids another person to attempt suicide.

The question then is whether your act "knowingly causes or aids" an attempted suicide. You turn to the jury instructions to see what that means:

A person knows or acts knowingly or with knowledge with respect to a [fact] [circumstance] [or] [result] when he or she is aware of that [fact] [circumstance] [or] [result]. [It is not necessary that the person know that the [fact] [circumstance] [or] [result] is defined by law as being unlawful or an element of a crime.] If a person has information that would lead a reasonable person in the same situation to believe that a fact exists, the jury is permitted but not required to find that he or she acted with knowledge of that fact. [When acting knowingly [as to a particular fact] is required to establish an element of a crime, the element is also established if a person acts intentionally [as to that fact].]

The outcome depends on specific circumstances. For example, "accidentally and unknowingly drop and leave" will not sustain a conviction. "Intentionally drop and leave" could, but you would also have to other information connecting the suicide to the availability of a weapon. If you intentionally drop and leave a firearm at a shooting range, a reasonable person would not think "OMG someone might see this weapon and kill themselves with it! Hahaha!". You can spin a yarn where you know that Smith is suicidal and will kill himself if he has a weapon, so that dropping the gun off constitutes "knowingly aiding".

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