Should Parents Be Charged if Their Child Takes a Gun to School?
(Photo by Adrienne of Oxford: WikiMedia Commons)
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No doubt that you have heard of the Oakland, Michigan school shooting by now. And I feel confident that everyone is aware of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary. Although the manner in which they got the guns to perform their harrowing deeds is different, one thing is the same, they got them from their parents. This begs the question, should parents be charged if their child takes a gun to school?

Should Parents Be Charged if Their Child Takes a Gun to School?

According to Education Week, “There have been 10 school shootings this year. There have been 102 school shootings since 2018, when Education Week began tracking such incidents. The highest number of shootings, 34, occurred last year. There were 10 shootings in 2020, and 24 each in 2019 and 2018.”

Although the real question here is, what is happening to our children that is driving them to this? But that is a whole other discussion for a whole other time. What is at issue here is that these children are getting firearms from somewhere. To be clear, I can’t say for certain how many got the guns from their parents, because I don’t know.

Regarding the Sandy Hook and Oakland, Michigan shootings we know for certain that they got them from their parents. However, the manner in which they each obtained the guns was vastly different.

In the Sandy Hook shooting, the shooter took his mother’s guns and shot her with one before committing the act. But in the case of the Oakland shooter, his parents gave him the gun for Christmas. They then gave the teen access to the gun even after receiving disturbing texts from him.

According to the New York Post, “Prosecutors revealed last month Crumbley had texted his mother about ‘demons’ and ‘ghosts’ prior to allegedly gunning down his classmates and made Molotov cocktails at home.”

But what makes this case so much different, is that it marks the first time the parents face charges.

According to another report from the New York Post, “The pair, who have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, are accused of allowing their son access to the 9mm handgun he [allegedly] used to massacre his classmates, and ignoring key warning signs before the attack.”

Real Talk: Your Thoughts on Charging Parents

As details emerge surrounding the nature of the parents of the Oakland shooter giving the teen a gun, it doesn’t look good for them. But the case definitely brings new questions with it. What kind of precedent will it set? Are there circumstances where the parents aren’t complicit? Will parents be liable even if it wasn’t their firearm? Etc.

We turned to you in our latest Real Talk segment on Facebook and asked, should parents be charged if their child takes a gun to school. Here is what you had to say.

Did it come from the parents? Or another source?

For the most part, the consensus seems to be that it depends on where the child got the firearm. However, most agree, if it was the parent’s firearm and they were negligent, then they should be charged.

“If the gun is registered to the parent and is not reported stolen, then maybe they should be charged. The security of the weapon is the responsibility of the owner. And so is the child’s state of mind,” as one commenter eloquently put it.

Simply put, “Not if the weapon was not owned by the parents. Otherwise, hellz yes.”

One reader immediately recognized the nuances inherent in making a decision like this. There are many factors at play:

“Totally depends on how the child received the firearm. Was it from someone outside the family and he [hid] it from the family[?] Did he steal it from a secure location without the family’s knowledge[?] Or did the parents let him just have one and keep it in his room[?] These are what needs to be asked [beforehand].”

This opens up a whole Pandora’s box of questions as I mentioned earlier. The precedent that is set from a case like this can present real issues for parents. If parents are charged for their child taking a gun to school, should they be charged for other offenses committed by their child as well? As one commenter points out:

“If it can be proven that there was negligence on the parent’s part, then yes. BUT are you going to charge parents when kids use an automobile irresponsibly? If the kid brings daddy’s beer to school? You’re opening up a big ol’ bag of questions.”

Cut and Dried

For some, the answer is a lot more cut and dried, with little room for debate:

“Yep way [overdue.]”

A few simply said, “yes.”

One states, “Simply, no.”

“Yes, [the] child should not have access to the gun. Parental failure.”

One reader makes a sound point, “Children Mirror their Parents. There must be some accountability. A Firearm is not a toy, and some parents need to understand that.”

Whatever the case, we do still live in a country where you are innocent until proven guilty—for now. But there should be some level of accountability from parents regarding the access their children have to firearms.

Likewise, topics of firearm safety and respect for the sanctity of life should also be taught at home. God knows the schools don’t teach that anymore.

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