Gee, Can We Lock Up The Parents For THIS Shooting?

Ethics Alarms has always maintained that when a child gets control of a real firearm and shoots it, the parents must be held criminally responsible, not only for the consequences of the shooting, but for allowing the child access at all. I also believe that this should be strict liability: I don’t care if the child is a whiz at picking locks or a precocious little Michael Corleone. If you own a gun and your kid gets a grip on it, you’re the menace to society.

I can’t imagine a more perfect illustration of the need for this policy than the story out of Richneck Elementary School in Newport News Virginia. A 6-year-old boy shot and wounded his first grade teacher yesterday. He apparently did it intentionally—he had some dispute with her, we are told—and is a good shot: she is in critical condition.

The Washington Post story about the shooting is infuriating:

Newport News Police Chief Steve R. Drew said at a news briefing…’We did not have a situation where someone was going around the school shooting.’”

Oh, the first grader wasn’t an active shooter then! We could guess that. What about the parents?

“Newport News Public Schools Superintendent George Parker III said …’I’m sounding like a broken record today because I continue to reiterate that we need to keep the guns out of the hands of our young people,’”’ he said.”

Wow, what a concept: keep loaded guns away from first graders! This isn’t a “guns and young people” case; this is a criminally irresponsible family case. What about the parents?

“This is evidence today that these are the things that happen when we have access to weapons.”

So this is going to be exploited as another “guns bad, make illegal!” incident, is it? “We” are adults; “we’ can and should have access to weapons. Should “we” not have access to butcher knives? Baseball bats? Nail guns? Electric drills? Rocks? What about the parents?

Drew said investigators were exploring, among other things, how the child got the gun.”

Ya think????

Then the Post report explains how it’s hard to try a six-year-old for a crime, because children that age don’t have the mens rea to be held accountable. That is the correct policy too.

What about the parents?

The story doesn’t mention the parents. It doesn’t even include the word “parents.”

This is res ipsa loquitur, as in case of the rotting human toe found in the plug of tobacco. If a six-year old comes to school with a loaded gun, someone has been criminally negligent. At very least, the child should be removed from the custody of those who care for him. Then make sure the adults are punished for whatever harm results from the child’s actions after he gets a finger on the trigger. Such a tragedy should literally never happen, and the Second Amendment isn’t the problem. Unethical gun owners are.

11 thoughts on “Gee, Can We Lock Up The Parents For THIS Shooting?

  1. “This is evidence today that these are the things that happen when we have access to weapons.”

    To invoke an old joke, who’s “we”, kemosabe?

  2. Nice emotional response with a lack of information. In this case the news media is completely accurate and unbiased . What happened to waiting for facts before making a judgement.

    • What part of “res ipsa loquitur” escapes your comprehension? I have a pretty good imagination, but I cannot imagine any plausible scenario where a 6-year-old shoots a teacher with a loaded gun and the parents are not culpable. The facts we have speak for themselves. Guns cost money, so we know nobody gave the child a gun. He had to find it. Kids come to school from their homes, so he didn’t find it at a neighbor’s house. Go ahead: I challenge you—how could parents (or guardians) NOT be responsible? And no, another resident in the home storing a gun with small child around would still be the parents’ responsibility.

      Is also not competent reporting. The role of the parents is an obvious missing link, and news stories needed to acknowledge that.

      • … I cannot imagine any plausible scenario where a 6-year-old shoots a teacher with a loaded gun and the parents are not culpable…

        I can. Here are a few:-

        – The child wasn’t under the effective care and control of its parents or guardians. (That moves the failure to a different point, and may change the nature of the fault depending on what was reasonably foreseeable.)

        – The child got the gun in a purely adventitious way, e.g. after finding it in the street or even on school grounds. (This happened to the young Louis Armstrong.)

        – It was self defence or the defence of others, say upon seeing a situation like that develop after separately obtaining the gun improperly beforehand. (That would be moral luck, of course.)

        – All involved might have mistakenly left what they thought was a prop gun lying around, only for it to be used in a jest that was no jest. (Such things have happened in the theatre from time to time, as when an idiot thought he was making blanks by using pliers to remove bullets from cartridges without realising that pieces were sometimes being left behind.)

        There could be overlap, and there could be yet other scenarios. All show some failure somewhere, at some level, but not necessarily by the parents. Had I been separated from my parents at the time we had to evacuate to somewhere to resist an attack by Force Publique mutineers (when I was six myself), I too might have found and used a gun among all the chaos. What if a stray round had got my father just when he was showing my brother and me the gun he had borrowed himself? (Before you say that an attack like that is not plausible, please be aware that it happened.)

        • Then there is the very real possibility that the child, grown to adulthood, knew that his 1st grade teacher was an evil genius who had, years later, provoked world war and enslaved humanity. Creating a time machine, he went back to the distant past to murder her before her evil plans grew to fruition, but his machine had a glitch: it returned the time traveler to what his age would have been in the temporal destination. With the mind of a mature genius but the body of a 6-year old, he managed to restrain his original first-grade self and take his place, securing a firearm as well. Now he could save the world by murdering his teacher! But, tragically, his shot missed by just enough. He failed.

          I am awaiting news of the discovery of the other “him,” and the unraveling of his noble scheme before an amazed public.

  3. I can’t wait to see who the parents are. Maybe Ben Crump will be suing the manufacturer of the gun on their and Antonio Oakley’s behalf.

    This situation reminds me of being advised by a young (aren’t they all?) writer for The Arizona Republic that they would no longer be publishing mug shots of suspects because “the photos were likely taken on the worst day of that person’s life.” Sure, sweetheart. Whatever you say.

      • Right. It’s that fact there are too many guns. They multiply and shoot themselves. If there were just fewer guns, these things wouldn’t happen.

  4. I think I’m going to wait to condemn the parents until we find out if the handgun was actually theirs.

    That said, whoever allowed this first grader to gain access to a loaded pistol like this should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

  5. This story would have really blown up the headlines and the media talking heads frothing, had the teacher returned fire.
    Would that have been an ethical response?

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