In many ways, the tragedy of the high school student who shot and killed four students and injured seven others follows a pattern we have become drearily familiar with in this gun-soaked and violent country.
What makes this different is the strange role played by the parents. Usually parents express shock and disbelief at what their child did and try to find reasons that might at least partly exculpate them. But in this case, the parents seem to have played a different role, almost as if they were aiding him. Apparently they had purchased the gun just four days before and seemed to have left it in a location that was easily accessible to their 15-year old son. Furthermore, there had been warning signs on the very day of the shooting that the boy was disturbed and had violent fantasies.
The semi-automatic gun was purchased legally by Crumbley’s father last week, according to investigators.
The parents were summoned to the school a few hours before the shooting occurred after a teacher found a drawing of a gun, a person bleeding and the words “help me” and “blood everywhere” and a laughing emoji, McDonald said at a press conference on Friday morning.
Prosecutors have revealed more details of drawings and writings made by the gunman, suggesting the possibility that he was planning a shooting rampage.
I recall when I started teaching in the US about three decades ago when, on a final exam, a student who had clearly given up on the course handed in his blue book filled mainly with drawings of guns and violent imagery. I was bothered by it but did not do anything, seeing it as a failing student venting his frustrations. Nothing came of that incident but if such a thing happened now, I would definitely report it to the counseling services and campus security.
How can we explain the strange behavior of the parents? Even after being apprised of their son’s disturbing behavior, they still did not lock away the weapon. And was the purchase of the gun just four days earlier merely a coincidence? Whose idea was it to buy the gun anyway? It boggles the mind to think that parents could be part of a scheme to have their son shoot up their son’s school but the authorities seem to see evidence of culpability.
Parents in the US are rarely charged in school shootings involving their children, even though most minors get guns from a parent or relative’s house, according to experts.
“Gun ownership is a right but with that right comes comes great responsibility,” McDonald said.
There is no Michigan law that requires gun owners keep weapons locked away from children. McDonald, however, suggested there was more to build a case on.
“All I can say at this point is those actions on mom and dad’s behalf go far beyond negligence,” she had told local station WJR-AM.
“We obviously are prosecuting the shooter to the fullest extent … There are other individuals who should be held accountable.”
McDonald said that Jennifer Crumbley had texted her son “You have to learn not to get caught” after a teacher saw him searching online for ammunition.
She described the parents’ conduct as “unconscionable” and “criminal”.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of the parents but they have disappeared, though their lawyer says that they left town for their own safety but would return to face arraignment.