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The Scoop - Charge parents with murder
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School shootings are kind of like COVID. We all wish we could close our eyes and they would go away.

One question stemming from Tuesday’s deadly school rampage in Michigan is if the parents should face charges for the actions of their 15-year-old son. A prosecutor from Oxford Township said Thursday the gun “seems to have been just freely available” to the teen.

“All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald told the Associated Press. “We obviously are prosecuting the shooter to the fullest extent. ... There are other individuals who should be held accountable.”

There are differences in state law from Tennessee to Michigan, but here in Tennessee we have a state law that allows drug dealers to be charged with second-degree murder if they sell drugs to a person who then dies from taking those drugs.

The logic is to hold drug dealers responsible for their actions. The drug dealer didn’t make the person buy the drugs. The drug dealer didn’t make the person take the drugs. Yet they are held criminally responsible because the person died from drugs they provided.

If that reasoning can be used to charge drug dealers with murder, I think the parents who enabled their 15-year-old to have free access to a gun he used to slaughter four people should be charged with murder too.

Just like the drug dealer, the parents provided the means for the death of others.

There was a time not so long ago when the rallying cry around the nation was that responsible adults should always have the right to own guns. That seems sensible enough and I agree.

In recent years, the word “responsible” has been removed from that rallying cry. Now people believe it’s in the best interest of America if everyone walks around with a loaded gun at all times, day or night, without a background check, gun license, or even 5 minutes of firearm training. 

That may be a great premise for a violent movie starring Bruce Willis or The Rock, but it’s not in the best interest of public safety for folks looking to go to work, go out to eat, and go about their daily lives without getting shot at the grocery store.

Parents of other school shooters have largely escaped responsibility. In 2020, the mother of an Indiana teen was just given probation for failing to remove guns from her home after her mentally ill son threatened to kill students. He fired shots inside his school, striking no one, but he did kill himself.

In Texas, the parents of a student accused of killing 10 people at a school in 2018 have escaped criminal charges, but are being sued in civil court over his easy access to guns.

I miss the days when we at least gave lip service to responsible gun ownership. Those days are long gone, replaced by our current atmosphere where parents can buy a semiautomatic handgun for their teen and turn him loose on his classmates.

Standard editor James Clark can be reached at 473-2191.