Speed Reads

In loco parentis

Michigan prosecutor says she may charge Oxford High School shooter's parents, too

A Michigan prosecutor charged a 15-year-old Oxford High School sophomore with terrorism, first-degree murder, assault, and gun possession charges on Wednesday, and said she would try him as an adult for killing four classmates and wounding others Tuesday. "There is a mountain of digital evidence" the mass shooting was premeditated, Oakland County prosecutor Karen McDonald said at a news conference. "It isn't even a close call."

McDonald said prosecutors will consider additional charges against the alleged gunman, Ethan Crumbley, and also his parents. Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said Tuesday that the defendant used a Sig Sauger 9mm handgun his father had purchased four days earlier, on Black Friday. "We know that owning a gun means securing it properly and locking it and keeping the ammunition separate and not allowing access to other individuals, particularly minors," McDonald said. "We have to hold individuals accountable who don't do that." 

Bouchard said Wednesday he supports McDonald's charges and decision to try Crumbley as an adult, but was noncommittal on charging his parents. "It is not clear under what statute Crumbley's parents would be charged, if they are," The Washington Post reports. "Michigan law does not require gun owners to lock up their weapons or keep them away from children, according to Giffords Law Center." 

"We don't have specific laws on the books that speak to that, like they have in other states," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel told the Detroit Free Press on Wednesday. "Theoretically, if you had a case where you had a teenager who had demonstrated some sort of instability, mentally or suicidal or homicidal thoughts or actions, or anything to that extent, and in addition to that you still allowed this child to have unfettered access to a weapon, then theoretically I don't think it would be a huge stretch to charge the parents with involuntary manslaughter under those circumstances."

Of the four cases the Post found, between 1999 and 2018, in which an adult gun owner was criminally punished for failing to lock up their firearm, one was a Michigan man convicted of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 29 months behind bars. "Adult gun owners are almost never held accountable when children use their weapons to harm themselves or others," the Post reports. "That's despite the fact that if children as young as 6 did not have access to guns, well more than half of the country's school shootings since 1999 would never have happened."