14 votes

In cases of school shootings, should the parent who owned the weapon be charged with a crime?

I just read this article in the Washington Post and was interested to hear what you all on Tildes thought?

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2018/08/01/feature/school-shootings-should-parents-be-charged-for-failing-to-lock-up-guns-used-by-their-kids/?utm_term=.48913fda4b09

The TL;DR is since 1999, children have committed at least 145 school shootings. Among the 105 cases in which the weapon’s source was identified, 80 percent were taken from the child’s home or those of relatives or friends. Yet The Washington Post found that just four adults have been convicted for failing to lock up the guns used.

Personally, I think the parents should absolutely be charged. If you are going to keep deadly weapons in your household, it is your responsibility as a gun owner to keep them safe. If your child takes your weapons and commits a mass shooting, I believe the parents are absolutely to blame.

Tildes, what are your thoughts?

17 comments

  1. [3]
    Krael
    Link
    Keeping your weapons secured should be the ultimate priority of any firearm owner. They absolutely should be charged with a crime in such an event. My question is, what should the punishment be?

    Keeping your weapons secured should be the ultimate priority of any firearm owner. They absolutely should be charged with a crime in such an event.

    My question is, what should the punishment be?

    17 votes
    1. dubteedub
      Link Parent
      IANAL, but I would think Involuntary manslaughter would be an appropriate charge I think the threat of several years in prison and a felony record is an appropriate punishment, as well as a good...

      IANAL, but I would think Involuntary manslaughter would be an appropriate charge

      Involuntary manslaughter: a killing that stems from a lack of intention to cause death but involving an intentional, or negligent, act leading to death.

      I think the threat of several years in prison and a felony record is an appropriate punishment, as well as a good deterrent to prevent future shootings.

      11 votes
    2. Pilgrim
      Link Parent
      My thought is if they were charged with the same crime that the weapon was used to commit then people would keep their weapons a lot more secure. I definitely get that's a radical position.

      My thought is if they were charged with the same crime that the weapon was used to commit then people would keep their weapons a lot more secure. I definitely get that's a radical position.

      5 votes
  2. Rocket_Man
    (edited )
    Link
    I think if you want to go down this path of holding owners liable you need to setup a legal infrastructure to make things a little more clear on what's considered negligent behavior and what's...

    I think if you want to go down this path of holding owners liable you need to setup a legal infrastructure to make things a little more clear on what's considered negligent behavior and what's not. Simply having your gun in a safe doesn't mean you're acting responsibly. People can keep the key in obvious locations and some gun safes are basically cosmetic. I'd like to see a federal push for something like the energy star program. Which would certify gun safes as being secure enough to protect owners from liability if used responsibly. Only safes with competent security would be able to be certified. Then states could use that certification as a baseline for however they want to handle liability and negligent gun handling.

    This would have beneficial results in both improving the market for gun safes, and making it simple for people to protect themselves from liability, and making it simpler for states to implement laws dealing with negligence and such around others getting access to other peoples guns.

    I should also add that this program would be voluntary like the energy star program. It would simply quicken the legal process of determining if a safe was secure as that was previously established. If someone used a non-certified safe it would then need to be proved that the safe in question was adequately secure to not be considered negligent use.

    11 votes
  3. [2]
    whoblowsthere
    Link
    I would say only if they blantently were not looked after. I believe in some states it’s required to keep guns in a safe. In those cases and the kid got his hands on the gun anyway, it wouldn’t...

    I would say only if they blantently were not looked after. I believe in some states it’s required to keep guns in a safe. In those cases and the kid got his hands on the gun anyway, it wouldn’t have mattered if they took extra steps IMO. They’d find a way to get a gun one way or the other.

    But if there’s a case where a parent has a gun lying on the floor in the TV room and their 10 year old puts it in their bag and takes it to school, yes that is negligent. And it’s on the parent.

    I think age of the child plays a big role. 14 and under, its all on the parents likely.

    8 votes
    1. dubteedub
      Link Parent
      Check out the first couple paragraphs in the WaPo article I linked The article goes in depth in a few of those laws and how they are so limited that they are effectively worthless. Also on your...

      Check out the first couple paragraphs in the WaPo article I linked

      Every year, state lawmakers across the country propose bills to hold adults criminally liable for negligently storing guns where children can reach them, and every year, for various reasons, legislatures decide not to pass those bills.

      Only 14 states and the District have approved such laws, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, but even those statutes, researchers say, are often not enforced, are too limited or carry weak penalties, rendering them ineffective.

      The article goes in depth in a few of those laws and how they are so limited that they are effectively worthless.

      None of the four successful prosecutions identified by The Post resulted from charges related to negligent-storage laws. The harshest penalty among those cases was a 29-month term behind bars for involuntary manslaughter. In that instance, a man in Michigan had used a shoe box to store his .32-caliber semiautomatic handgun, which a 6-year-old visitor found and took to school, then fatally shot a first-grade classmate.

      Also on your point about "They’d find a way to get a gun one way or the other." I really disagree with you there. If they did not have access to a firearm at home, they would not be able to buy a handgun legally until they were 21. They might be able to buy a long gun if they are 18. Another classmate would have to give them a gun from their parents house or the shooter would have to steal one from somewhere else.

      3 votes
  4. [5]
    Emerald_Knight
    Link
    In cases of negligence, I think so. I'm a firearm owner and have been hunting for roughly half my life. The two most important aspects of handling firearms that have constantly been drilled into...

    In cases of negligence, I think so.

    I'm a firearm owner and have been hunting for roughly half my life. The two most important aspects of handling firearms that have constantly been drilled into my head since I was a kid are safety and personal responsibility. When you handle a firearm, when you store a firearm, and when you set your firearm aside, it's your own actions that determine whether or not someone ends up getting hurt. Firearms aren't toys, they will destroy you or anyone else in their path if you fuck around.

    If you own a firearm, you sure as shit better be storing it properly. End of story. It doesn't have to be in a bank vault, but even a padlocked closet is better than left lying around on a table or in an unlocked nightstand. You have to be showing some form of intent to keep your firearm out of unauthorized hands, including your kids'.

    5 votes
    1. [4]
      dubteedub
      Link Parent
      I agree with you there. As the WaPo article I linked points out, there are many inexpensive safes (<$250) that can be opened in under three seconds, which is plenty of time to arm yourself in the...

      I agree with you there. As the WaPo article I linked points out, there are many inexpensive safes (<$250) that can be opened in under three seconds, which is plenty of time to arm yourself in the case of self defense.

      If a gun is left out or in an unlocked container and used in a school shooting, what punishment would you think would be appropriate?

      2 votes
      1. [3]
        Emerald_Knight
        Link Parent
        That depends on the extent of the damages incurred. Likely involuntary manslaughter for those cases where death occurs (I would liken it to the level of negligence of causing a fatality by driving...

        That depends on the extent of the damages incurred. Likely involuntary manslaughter for those cases where death occurs (I would liken it to the level of negligence of causing a fatality by driving drunk). For cases where neither death nor bodily harm occur, a fine and mandatory firearm safety courses would be sufficient (we don't want to over-punish in cases where improvements are a better alternative, which is a stance I hold with any criminal case). For cases where no death occurs but bodily harm is involved, I don't really have a solid answer as I'm not aware of what existing options are available that would be sensible (I'm not exactly well-versed in law), but obviously some form of penalty between those two extremes would be the most appropriate.

        It's not a perfect answer, but it's something. Really it's more of a general outline. The details I would rather leave to someone experienced enough in matters of law to make informed and educated decisions.

        2 votes
        1. [2]
          dubteedub
          Link Parent
          Do you think these people should be prevented from owning guns in the future if they are used in a shooting resulting in death or injury?

          Do you think these people should be prevented from owning guns in the future if they are used in a shooting resulting in death or injury?

          1 vote
          1. Emerald_Knight
            Link Parent
            I wouldn't go that far, no. My understanding is that if they're convicted of a felony, then they will not be able to own a firearm until a 10-year period lapses following the most recent felony on...

            I wouldn't go that far, no. My understanding is that if they're convicted of a felony, then they will not be able to own a firearm until a 10-year period lapses following the most recent felony on their record, after which they can have their rights reinstated. Apart from that, the only scenarios in which I believe firearm ownership should be suspended are 1. in the event of repeat offenses, and 2. in the event that they fail to complete a mandatory firearms safety course or set of courses as issued by a court of law (although, personally I believe safety courses should be mandatory for everyone). After all, this isn't a case where the owner is involved in the shooting, so it doesn't make sense to penalize them to such a degree unless it's necessary to do so.

            Referring back to my drunk driver example, if someone causes a fatality due to driving while intoxicated, then they should definitely have their license revoked, but if that person serves their time, and manages to avoid any alcohol-related crimes and doesn't drive when they're not supposed to for a certain length of time (i.e. some probationary period), then I don't think it would make sense to prevent them from re-obtaining a license and driving privileges.

            Put simply: I believe that there needs to be a balance between punitive measures and rehabilitation.

            2 votes
  5. Neverland
    (edited )
    Link
    I believe that if it can be proven that the person whose gun was used was not stored in a secure way, then they should be charged, parent or not. Edit: I grew up with guns which were not stored...

    I believe that if it can be proven that the person whose gun was used was not stored in a secure way, then they should be charged, parent or not.

    Edit: I grew up with guns which were not stored securely, I played with them all the time. I am not against all guns, just pro gun safety and sanity.

    4 votes
  6. [3]
    AReluctantTilder
    Link
    That’s a tough one. I feel that yes they are responsible but man does that suck

    That’s a tough one. I feel that yes they are responsible but man does that suck

    1 vote
    1. [2]
      dubteedub
      Link Parent
      I think it sucks a lot more for those who were killed because a parent didn't lock their guns away properly.

      I think it sucks a lot more for those who were killed because a parent didn't lock their guns away properly.

      4 votes
      1. AReluctantTilder
        Link Parent
        I should clarify that it sucks because you can’t always control the plans of another person. But yes they are particularly responsible and should be held so

        I should clarify that it sucks because you can’t always control the plans of another person. But yes they are particularly responsible and should be held so

        1 vote
  7. Fin
    Link
    Keeping your guns safe from other people is one of the first rules of owning a gun.

    Keeping your guns safe from other people is one of the first rules of owning a gun.

    1 vote
  8. Trait
    Link
    The UK requires that gun owners keep their firearms stored in appropriate gun safes/lockboxes when not in use. It's pretty strict on this, too - my father's gun box was a hefty steel thing...

    The UK requires that gun owners keep their firearms stored in appropriate gun safes/lockboxes when not in use. It's pretty strict on this, too - my father's gun box was a hefty steel thing containing the family shotgun, and the guidelines are pretty detailed on what's acceptable/unacceptable storage. Whenever he had his license renewed, every couple of years, a policeman would come over to check the storage location etc. to ensure it was up to snuff. Here's a leaflet for safe gun storage in the UK. Improper storage, regardless of the gun being used in a crime, is a criminal offence.

    However, this is possible because the UK does not have a constitution enshrining the right to bear arms. Its gun laws are very strict, and guns are considered tools and sporting equipment (e.g. pest control, target shooting clubs) rather than weapons to be used for self-defence or for militia. I imagine that putting a law in place in the US which obstructs one's second amendment rights won't be possible in the foreseeable future, as the culture around guns is totally different (foundation of a nation vs a tool more trouble than it's worth).

    Morally, I think this should only be the case in cases of neglect, such as leaving a gun out in plain sight in the car or telling children where it is before they are responsible enough themselves. I don't think parenthood should come into it, but guardianship seems fair (many people I grew up with barely knew their parents but lived with extended family). If someone makes a good faith effort to keep their guns secure, then I think they should not be prosecuted for someone else overcoming their efforts to safely secure their guns to the greatest extent that doesn't infringe on their rights (such as 2nd amendment in the US).

    1 vote