Are Ethan Crumbley’s Parents to Blame?

Are parents to blame for school shooters? Public opinion says yes. But what about the law? IMG iStock-1282013865

U.S.A.-( As this correspondent reads accounts of the latest media-inspired school shooting, there was an obvious theme: blame the parents. Convict them before any evidence is presented in court. Indict them with crimes seldom used in such circumstances. Declare they are fugitives in a “manhunt”.

This is all depressingly familiar. The media smells gun control blood in the water. They launch a narrative: all is the fault of the parents because they own guns and bought one for their child. The narrative advances their political agenda and masks their own liability.  The Constitutional rights of gun owners, especially of white gun owners, are not considered worthy of protection. The mother, Jennifer Crumbley, even supported President Trump in 2016!

How dare she!

The Trump-support letter, supposedly a blog post written in November of 2016, is claimed by some to be a hoax. Is it? This correspondent does not know. Time will help clear the confusion.

This correspondent does not know all the details of what happened. No one does at this point. A narrative is being formed and pushed with little fact and little due process. The Michigan prosecutor has announced four counts of involuntary manslaughter charges for each parent, with very little investigation, and lots of publicity. The public is inflamed.  The sheriff in the county says this is not the way things are usually done.

The Court of Public Opinion

Calls for harsh punishment of the Crumbley parents is common on the Internet.

Involuntary manslaughter in Michigan appears to be very close to criminally negligent homicide, generally. The theory appears to be that it was criminally negligent for the parents to have allowed the 15-year-old to have access to the pistol used, and/or perhaps, not to have taken him from school or to have searched his backpack after being shown a disturbing drawing asking for help and depicting guns, a bullet, and a person shot.

There seems to have been ample reasonable suspicion for the school officials to search the 15-year-old student’s backpack. This is enhanced by the fact the parents insisted on leaving the 15-year-old in the school, creating more reason to search the backpack. Now we learn there were no prior disciplinary problems; the 15-year-old convinced the school and parents the drawing was for a video game he was designing. He convinced them he was not suicidal or homicidal.

We do not know if the pistol used was in the backpack or hidden somewhere in the school. The parents knew the 15-year-old lived in their home. They knew they had firearms in their home, including the pistol which was used to murder.

They may or may not have believed it to be secured. There is no statistical evidence laws requiring guns to be secured from teenagers reduce crime. The details are important. Those who want a disarmed public are using the incident to push for more laws. More laws are almost always the wrong response. In these tragedies, there is an unfortunate tendency to rush to judgement. It is absolutely part of the rights of parents and the accused to not make statements without counsel being present.

More facts will emerge.  A wait of a week or a month is reasonable to allow some shakeout of facts. A trial is the ultimate arbiter, as was seen in the Rittenhouse case. We should be working to dampen trial by Media rather than exacerbating it.

A rush to judgement comes with a high risk of injustice.

Much has been made of the mother texting her son to “Don’t do it” after the shooting. It could as easily have been a panicked cry to prevent suicide as anything else. This mass murder is a terrible tragedy that came extremely close to being prevented, making it all the more forceful.

If Only… If Only…

There are more forces in play than the Constitutionally protected presence of firearms in our homes. Media contagion is real, and a strong, perhaps dominant thread in school mass murder. Teens in crises see a way to escape life in a manner that will immortalize them in the media.

The more people they kill, the more media attention they get. It is a horrible but obvious way to promote mass killing. Could slightly different decisions by either the parents or the school have stopped this event before it started? It appears so. Does this rise to the level of negligent homicide? It is far too early to know. It is an unusual charge, especially this early.

We all need to back off, take a deep breath, and allow for due process and a measured investigation that respects the rights of all concerned. Put yourself in the position of the parents of the child who killed several other students. It is a horrible position to be in, notwithstanding the worse condition of the parents whose children were killed and wounded. There is no evidence the parents of the murderer condoned or encouraged the killing of innocents. It is not illegal or immoral for parents to buy a teen a pistol and teach them to shoot it.

Parents have always been responsible, at least to some extent, for the conduct of minor children.  This is a nightmare for the parents of the killer. It is a terrible nightmare for the parents of the victims. When we feel our emotions rising; when we want to take direct and harsh action; it is the time to step back, call for due process and proper procedure, careful investigation, and measured thought. To do less is to be controlled by those who use any “crises” to accomplish what they otherwise could not do.

Government by Crises is Bad Government.

The narrative being pushed by the prosecutor and the Media may not be close to reality. We have been deceived several times in recent history. Consider Ferguson Missouri and the fake “hands up, don’t shoot” narrative. Consider the attack on innocent George Zimmerman by Trayvon Martin. Consider the Media attempt at lynching Kyle Rittenhouse.

We have not heard the parent’s side of the story.

It is time to call for a calm, legal, and responsible investigation, and a cooling period to prevent emotional overreactions when careful thought and consideration is required.

About Dean Weingarten:

Dean Weingarten has been a peace officer, a military officer, was on the University of Wisconsin Pistol Team for four years, and was first certified to teach firearms safety in 1973. He taught the Arizona concealed carry course for fifteen years until the goal of Constitutional Carry was attained. He has degrees in meteorology and mining engineering and retired from the Department of Defense after a 30-year career in Army Research, Development, Testing, and Evaluation.

Dean Weingarten

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