By Kara Alaimo
Updated: Sat, 04 Dec 2021 02:29:33 GMT
Editor's Note: Kara Alaimo, an associate professor in the Lawrence Herbert School of Communication at Hofstra University, writes about women and social media. She was spokeswoman for international affairs in the Treasury Department during the Obama administration. Follow her on Twitter @karaalaimo. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. View more opinion at CNN.
Prosecutors charged the parents of a 15-year-old suspected school shooter with four counts of involuntary manslaughter in a rare move that sent shockwaves across the country.
Ethan Crumbley, who is accused of killing four students and injuring seven others at Oxford High School in Michigan on Tuesday, has already been charged as an adult with terrorism, murder, assault and other counts. On Friday, Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald called the actions of his parents, James and Jennifer Crumbly, "criminal."
"I have tremendous compassion and empathy for parents who have children struggling. I am, by no means, saying that an active shooter situation should always result in a criminal prosecution against parents. But the facts of this case are so egregious," McDonald added.
Ethan Crumbley was present when his father purchased a Sig Sauer gun just four days before the shooting, McDonald said. The teenager called the gun "my new beauty" on social media, while his mother referred to the weapon as "his new Christmas present," according to McDonald. After a teacher said she saw Ethan Crumbley searching ammunition on his phone during class, school officials tried to contact the parents the night before the shooting -- but got no response. The mother however, exchanged text messages with her son that day, and wrote, "LOL, I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught," according to McDonald. When another teacher found a disturbing note on the student's desk the morning of the shooting, both parents were summoned to school and told to get their son counseling, the prosecutor said. But the parents then left and the boy was sent back to class.
It's unconscionable that his dad purchased the weapon, and that both parents failed to take the school's warnings seriously, even though they knew their son had access to a gun, which, according to McDonald, was not securely locked away. As a mother, it's particularly astonishing to me that another parent would fail to take the proper safety precautions, especially given the circumstances the school officials raised. We as parents, of course, rely on one another to exercise good judgment in order to keep all our children safe. The Crumbleys' apparent lack of concern for the welfare of the other children in their community is absolutely staggering.
Charging James and Jennifer Crumbly in this case serves as a wake-up call to parents and other gun owners that they need to be more responsible when it comes to safeguarding their weapons. McDonald's actions in this case are entirely justified -- and the move to prosecute the parents could serve as a powerful warning that helps reduce the number of school shootings in this country.
Of course, charging the two parents in this case is not enough to solve the problem of gun violence in this country. As my fellow CNN Opinion contributor Julian Zelizer explained, what this country really needs is stricter gun control laws. Lawmakers who have been derelict in their duties to pass this desperately-needed legislation also deserve a good share of the blame for the deaths of so many young children.
News of the shooting was, sadly, shockingly familiar to Americans. The school shooting was the deadliest since May 2018, according to a CNN tally. And there have been 48 shootings so far this year on K-12 campuses, 32 of them since August 1. There's nothing normal about the fact that these shootings are now so common that parents actually worry about sending their kids to school.
While we wait for the solutions we really need, the move to charge Crumbley's parents and the potential for others to be held accountable for helping kids get their hands on guns could make a positive impact. This strategy clearly isn't a panacea, but this country needs to use every tool at its disposal right now to try to stop school shootings.