By William J. Furney
An apparently foolish American father — allegedly fatally so — bought a Christmas present for his seemingly troubled 15-year-old son: a handgun. The child used the weapon to (allegedly) shoot and kill his fellow students, and both he and his parents are now in police custody.
The kid is said to have posted his new gift on social media, on an account that appears to have been deactivated, but not before prosecutors had a look and were alarmed. “Just got my new beauty today,” 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley posted, along with a heart emoji, followed by a post by his mother, Jennifer, the next day that said her son was “testing out his new Christmas present”, according to Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald.
A teacher at Oxford High School in Detroit, Michigan, caught Ethan Crumbley searching for bullets on his phone and his mother told him in a text message, “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught”, the prosecutor said.
And then on Tuesday morning this week, drawings of a gun, a bullet and someone bleeding were found at the school, with the words: “Blood everywhere”, “My life is useless” and “The thoughts won’t stop — help me”, McDonald said. The parents were asked to take the child out of school and put him in counselling, but they refused and shortly afterwards, the teen opened fire and killed four of his fellow students — aged between 14 and 17 — and injured seven other people, according to prosecutors’ account of the worst mass shooting in the United States this year.
Ethan Crumbley, who apparently claimed to have been bullied at school, is to be tried as an adult, and faces a raft of charges, including four counts of first-degree murder, one count of terrorism, seven of assult with intent to murder and 12 counts of illegal possession of a gun.
The parents are not getting off scot-free. In a first for gun-mad America, where the constitution gives people aged 18 and over (with some exemptions, like hunting) the right to own and bear arms, James and Jennifer Crumbley are facing charges over the massacre by their teenage son.
The authorities launched a manhunt for the Crumbley parents, with a $10,000 reward on each of their heads, and found the pair holed up in a building in Detroit, took them into custody and slapped them with four counts of involuntary manslaughter, because they bought the murder weapon for their son and ignored his troubling behavoir before the shooting.
The key to convicting the parents is their act of buying a handgun for a child with mental health issues and not especially for failing to act on the school’s warnings about his behavior, as the latter might show a duty to the victims that could be hard to prove, legal experts say.
“They clearly knew their child was very troubled and seemed to have gone out of their way to arm him,” a professor of law at the University of Detroit Mercy, Lawrence Dubin, told the Reuters news agency.
More than 41,500 people in the US have died from guns so far this year, over 19,000 in acts of violence and almost 22,400 instances of suicide, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a Washington, DC, organsisation that tracks gun deaths.
It’s an American tragedy without end, and while polls show overwhelming support for tighter gun laws — in the wake of rolling school and other massacres by crazed people — the fact remains that guns are part of the fabric of US society and almost one-third of American adults own one.
“Why does a 15-year-old need a gun? What reason can a kid need a gun?” asked a friend of mine who used to live in Michigan and has moved to Mexico. “The parents were reckless and should be charged,” she insisted.
“People are burying their kids this week. My 7-year-old niece asked [her mother] if she will die if she goes back to school. And my 15-year-old nephew is making plans in case they ever need to rush a shooter. This is not normal or right.”