What should the law do when a child or teen commits murder using an unsecured gun? What if the gun belongs the parents? Shooting deaths in the United States are sadly a common occurrence, even among children. According to USA Today, children under age 12 die from gun accidents on average once a week. In most cases, the gun is loaded and unsecured.
The punishment for parents when such tragedies occur vary from state to state. For example, a babysitter in North Carolina was charged with involuntary manslaughter in 2015 after a 2-year-old in her care shot herself with a 20-gauge shotgun. That same year, charges against a babysitter in Colorado were dismissed even though a 9-year-old boy was shot by his brother with the babysitter’s loaded gun while in his care.
What about if the shooting isn’t an accident? Just last week, 2 teens died and 17 were injured at Marshall County High School in Kentucky. The gunman was a 15-year-old boy whose identity has not yet been revealed. His mother, like many parents in the small community, rushed to the school after they heard there was an active shooter situation.
One parent recounted the reaction that the shooter’s mother had when she discovered it was her son behind the bloodshed.
“I held her hair while she threw up,” Heather Adams told Salon, adding that the mother was distraught.
Adams believes she knows how the shooter got the handgun used in the deadly school attack.
“The shooter took the gun out of her closet,” she told Salon. That hasn’t been confirmed by Kentucky State Police. If it were true though, it wouldn’t be shocking. Statistically speaking, it’s the most likely option. A 2004 report by the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Education reveals that over two-thirds of students behind gun-related school violence obtained the guns from their home or from a family member’s home.
Most family members do not face actual jail time if their child commits murder with their gun. Often, the court decides they have suffered enough.
“You feel an enormous amount of sympathy for these parents because it’s the most unimaginable loss there is when you lose a child. Prosecutors understandably struggle with the deterrent value with filing charges,” said Jennifer Collins, dean of Southern Methodist University Law School.
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