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.”
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.