Bad Parenting: Sentence For Firing Unloaded Gun at Child Upheld

By William Peacock, Esq. on August 01, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

But, the gun wasn't loaded!

It doesn't matter. Putting a gun to your child's head and pulling the trigger is a crime. And it wasn't Gregory Culbert's first.

Culbert's son and stepson, both teenagers, were arguing over money. The stepson has ADHD and opposition defiance disorder. As his mother put it, "he's difficult." Culbert intervened in the argument, determined that his stepson was at fault, and sent the child to the bathroom for a time out. Instead of getting the message, the child threw a tantrum and began yelling and cursing at his stepfather through the door.

Obviously, some corrective action was needed here. Some parents would extend the time out, ground the child, or even inflict some good old-fashioned physical reinforcement. Culbert's solution was a bit more creative. He grabbed his revolver, unloaded it, held it against the child's head, and told him, "Don't ever lie to me," and "Don't you ever call me that again."

The kid promised to cease the objectionable behavior.

Culbert, on the other hand, was convicted of Section 422, making criminal threats. He had also previously been convicted of Section 422 for breaking into his ex-wife's house and threatening to kill her in front of the two children. That conviction was later reduced to a misdemeanor and expunged.

The case address some interesting 422-specific questions, like whether the brief moment of fear during the trigger pull was sufficient to sustain the conviction (it was), but the really interesting discussion was the impact of the California Supreme Court's recent opinion in People v. Park.

In that case, the court held that a prior felony, which had been reduced to a misdemeanor, could not be used for "prior felon" sentencing enhancements, as there was no prior felony as a matter of law.

Culbert, in addition to a six-year term for the 422 conviction, was convicted of two felon-in-possession offenses for firearms and ammunition. He also received a five-year sentence enhancement for the prior 422 conviction. Both were erroneous, per Park, as once his original domestic violence offense was reduced to a misdemeanor, he was no longer a prior felon.

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