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Parents of young people who carry out school shootings are rarely charged. Could this change?


The parents of the suspect in the Oxford, Michigan shooting face four counts of manslaughter. It is a call for adults to take greater responsibility in carrying weapons.

By Marlene Lenthang -

NBC News

In an unusual move, the parents of the 15-year-old boy suspected of the Oxford, Michigan high school shooting, which killed four people, have been charged, what advocates say is a warning for responsible gun possession and a step forward in accountability for these attacks.

Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald charged Jennifer and James Crumbley with

four counts of involuntary manslaughter

on Friday


Ethan Crumbley, her son, is a suspect in the November 30 shooting.

"These charges are intended to hold the individuals who contributed to this tragedy accountable and send a message that gun owners have a responsibility," McDonald said.

"When they fail to fulfill that responsibility, there are serious and criminal consequences."

Although school shootings are common in the United States, it is

rare for parents to be charged in such cases.

People attend a vigil downtown to honor those killed and injured during the recent shooting at Oxford High School.Scott Olson / Getty Images

An investigation by The Washington Post newspaper found that, of the 105 school shootings committed by minors from 1999 to 2018, in which the origin of the weapon was identified, in 84 cases the weapons were obtained from the children's homes, or from a relative, or from a friend's house.

In only four of those cases did the adult gun owners receive criminal charges for failing to keep the guns in safe places.

Danny Cevallos, a legal analyst at our sister network NBC News, said charges against parents in cases like these "

are not particularly common,

" but have precedent in Michigan.

Cevallos mentioned the 2018 case,

People v.


, in which the Michigan Court of Appeals charged a man with involuntary manslaughter after allowing his children access to a weapon.

The defendant's 9-year-old son was fatally shot by his 10-year-old sister in November 2015, after he found a shotgun in an "easily accessible location in their home."

Cevallos said the charges were a "good strategic choice only because, as recently as 2018, a similar theory of liability was confirmed."

FBI investigates threats of shootings that forced dozens of schools to close in Michigan

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"They have a clear path to a conviction, if they have the evidence," Cevallos said.

"Is it the beginning of a new era of holding parents accountable for the killings of their children? Maybe."

In this case, police believe that the 9mm Sig Sauer gun used in the shooting was purchased by the suspect's father days earlier.

McDonald said at a press conference on Friday that it was indeed purchased for the son and that he was present at the time of purchase.

The pistol was kept "unsecured in a drawer" at the Crumbleys' home, he said.

He added that the boy's teacher saw that he was looking for ammunition on the internet on his phone and alerted the school authorities

, but when they tried to contact his mother, it was impossible to locate her.

Under Michigan law, parents of a child violating firearm laws on school property or in a school vehicle can be held criminally liable if they knew of the child's intentions or encouraged his actions.

[The young man arrested for the shooting in Michigan recorded a video where he expresses his intention to kill his companions]

Instead of contacting the school, Jennifer Crumbley allegedly texted her son:


I'm not mad at you.

You have to learn not to get caught

. "

On the day of the shooting, another professor said he saw the suspect pulling out a gun and bullet with the words "Blood all over it," "Help me," and "My life is useless," McDonald said.

The parents were called to the school.

"The idea that a parent can read those words and also know that their child has access to a weapon that they have given themselves is inconceivable. It is a crime," McDonald said.

Defenders of the law hail the charges as "a step in the right direction"

The weapons used in school shootings often come from the home of a relative.

In 45% of the incidents with attackers in schools who are under 18 years of age in which the origin of the weapon was identified, 74% obtained the pistol at their home or that of their relatives or friends, according to the defense group gun control Everytown. 

According to Giffords,

Michigan owners are not required to lock guns.

Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, a group that seeks to end gun violence in America, said: "If this kid hadn't had access to a gun, chances are there wouldn't have been a shooting at the school." .

"Parents certainly played a role in buying the semi-automatic pistol on Black Friday, and then allowing their child easy access to it," he said.

"It is important that all gun owners know that the responsibility falls on them, to protect their families, and their communities, by safely keeping their firearm," said Watts.

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Allison Anderman, Giffords chief counsel and local policy director, called the allegations a "

move in the right direction."

"Parents, and everyone, should store their guns responsibly. Let's not forget that Adam Lanza's mother received the ultimate punishment for not securing her gun," he said, citing the Sandy Hook school shooter.

"Her son took her guns and killed her with them. I don't know what people need to hear to change their behavior."

Michigan Sen. Rosemary Bayer, in whose district the Oxford school is located, introduced a bill in the state legislature in June that seeks to hold parents responsible if they fail to secure firearms.

According to that bill, if a minor obtains a weapon and uses it to injure or kill others,

the adult would face up to five years in prison.

"This type of bill specifically tries to ensure that children do not have access to guns and reduces the number of times children use them to shoot," Bayer told our sister network NBC News.

[Students who survived the Michigan shooting say the shooter posed as a police officer]

Bayer supported the allegations by saying: "We must start holding people accountable for what their children do. This is not a toy."

Bayer said the entire state of Michigan has been shocked by the shooting.

"The fear, the fact that we see it as a wave that is sweeping across our state. This is not just a local shock, it's really scary. We have to act. We are way behind," Bayer said.

Source: telemundo

All news articles on 2021-12-04

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