A Handgun for Christmas
July 23, 2022 9:12 AM   Subscribe

 
I am having trouble seeing the downside here. Require that gun purchasers are over 18 and make parents to some degree liable for gun crimes committed by their children with guns they purchased.
posted by snofoam at 9:31 AM on July 23 [28 favorites]


American gun laws are obviously a brain-free zone but:

Require that gun purchasers are over 18 and make parents to some degree liable for gun crimes committed by their children with guns they purchased.

...bwah?? How are these notional parents not immediately "accessories before the fact" if they supply a weapon to a murderer? Is that not a Thing in the US? IANAL obvs.
posted by pompomtom at 9:54 AM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Reading the entire article, there are some troubling precedents - for example, the fact that the parents didn’t read their child’s diary or go through his phone and text messages is being argued as negligence. This is far from a simple case, and I’m not sure how I feel about it at all - which means the New Yorker did a good job, I guess.
posted by corb at 10:00 AM on July 23 [51 favorites]


Must say I don't love the way the mother is the target for most of the blame and her lack of feminine and maternal qualities held up as proof of her failings.
posted by Zumbador at 10:02 AM on July 23 [61 favorites]


read their child’s diary or go through his phone and text messages

I'm a bit freedom-deprived, but if I hand a weapon to someone who then murders someone with that weapon, AFAIK I'm an accessory to the crime. If I know about the crime happening and don't report it, I'm an accessory "after the fact" (I think that makes one equally culpable).

You don't need to interrogate your kids' phones to deny them weapons of war.
posted by pompomtom at 10:45 AM on July 23 [29 favorites]


As a Canadian with no direct experience with guns, I believe that any adult who gives a child a handgun is a) an idiot, b) a terrible parent, c) oblivious to the world around them, and d) an accessory to any crime committed by the child with that gun. None of this is ambiguous.
posted by dobbs at 10:49 AM on July 23 [83 favorites]


dobbs: When I was a lad, all of those thing applied when my Dad gave me an air-rifle (which he gave to the cops in the gun buyback after the Port Arthur massacre)

A handgun? OMFG.
posted by pompomtom at 11:11 AM on July 23 [4 favorites]


I think part of this is complicated. I know many parents of troubled teenagers who are at loss about how to help them. It seems like this boy called out for help multiple times and the parents didn't listen, but hindsight is 20/20, no-one can know what really happened, except if there is a family member or teacher or something who was close enough to give a report. Could this set the precedent that every parent of a troubled teen who commits any crime is liable?

The gun thing is not complicated, though. He is a minor, he shouldn't have access to any weapon without supervision. That is common sense, and here it is also the law, but is it the law in the US? I don't know.
posted by mumimor at 11:12 AM on July 23 [5 favorites]


If you read the full article - yes, I would say that their level of neglect and negligence in ignoring many very clear warning signs that multiple other people tried to get them to address at least merits being argued in court.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:18 AM on July 23 [20 favorites]


I understand how there are aspects of this that seem like terrible precedent - particularly the “bad mother” arguments, but I don’t see how it could be considered controversial to bring this suit to bear when the parents purchased and supplied a murder weapon to a minor. Parenting and mental health arguments aside, much of the pro-gun argument hinges on a concept of personal responsibility, and it seems obvious to me that this extends to guns purchased by an adult for use by a minor. You buy the gun and sign the form, you are responsible for it.
posted by q*ben at 11:25 AM on July 23 [30 favorites]


It was around then, a little before his 15th birthday, that Ethan started to send his mother a series of texts that will be produced as evidence at trial. In the texts, Ethan said he was hearing things. Imaginary presences felt real to him. He sounded lonely and afraid. “Can you get home now?” he wrote on March 9. “There is someone in the house I think. Someone walked into the bathroom and flushed the toilet and left the light on. And I thought it was you but when I came out no one was home. There is no one in the house tho. Dude my door just slammed. Maybe it’s just my perinoa [sic]. But when are you going to get home.”

About a week later, he seemed to be hallucinating. “Ok the house is now haunted,” he wrote. “Some weird shit just happened and now I’m scared.” And then: “I got some videos. And a picture of the demon. It is throwing BOWLS. I am not joking it fucked up the kitchen. I am just going to be outside for a while.” And finally, “can you at least text back?” If Jehn responded to him either of these times, she did not do so by text or phone.


[…]

Ethan had one close friend, and in the spring of 2021, he started telling the friend by text how awful he felt. He got 17 hours of sleep over five days, he said. He was laughing and crying in the shower. He had tried to talk to his parents, but they wouldn’t listen, Ethan said.

On April 5, Ethan told his friend by text that he was thinking about calling 911 on himself but was afraid his parents would be “really pissed.” He thought he was having a mental breakdown.

“I am going to ask my parents to go to the doctor’s tomorrow or Tuesday again,” Ethan wrote. When he tried to talk to his parents before, his father had given him some medicine and told him to “suck it up,” and his mother laughed. “She makes everyone feel like shit,” he wrote.

“But this time I am going to tell them about the voices. I only told them about the people I saw.”


[…]

He also kept a journal, 21 pages of writing and drawing in a black notebook. “I have fully mentally lost it after years of fighting with my dark side,” Ethan wrote. “My parents won’t listen to me about help or a therapist.”

This case, in short, is not proceeding just because they bought him a gun. But also:

James went down the road from East Street to Acme Shooting Goods and purchased the 9-mm. for $519.35 using his credit card. Ethan came along and waited while his father ticked a box attesting that he understood it was illegal to buy a gun for someone else and signed a form acknowledging that his new gun came with a safety lock.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:28 AM on July 23 [71 favorites]


So anyway, I am a male-identifying person, and I passed though teenage years, and I was then an absolute fucking idiot, and I was in positions (standard schoolyard punch-ups) in which my intention was to kill (I was bullied, fuck those toerags).

Young men can be very dangerous. Don't give them guns.
posted by pompomtom at 11:37 AM on July 23 [22 favorites]


was/were

?
posted by pompomtom at 11:38 AM on July 23


Honestly curious now...

Is there a purpose for a handgun which isn't "killing or injuring a human"?
posted by pompomtom at 11:44 AM on July 23 [15 favorites]


Is there a purpose for a handgun which isn't "killing or injuring a human"?

I think gun advocates consider "threatening to kill or injure a human" to be a distinct use case. Also, much is made of how "relaxing" they are to shoot for recreation.

Finally, while nobody would probably articulate this as "useful", gun ownership is clearly a very strong totem of personal identity for many people these days, not unlike a leather jacket or a motorcycle.

But yeah, you are right, it is a tool for killing people.
posted by anhedonic at 11:57 AM on July 23 [13 favorites]


A dissenting voice in the article comes from a professor who points out that Black and brown people would bear the brunt of any precedent this sets. That's hard to keep in mind when you have this horse girl who says things like "lol mom goals for real" and reminds me of those bumper stickers that say "just an average mom trying not to raise liberals." We desperately want to punish someone, a Republican preferably, for allowing a mass shooting, as indeed we should. And they were negligent. They were careless, they were stupid, they could have prevented this and they did not.

I just ... I don't like this. It's not for liking, of course.
posted by Countess Elena at 12:00 PM on July 23 [17 favorites]


Is there a purpose for a handgun which isn't "killing or injuring a human"?

Target shooting; there are pure hobbyists. They used to be a significant part of the public face of gun ownership; rhetoric since the '70s has made them mostly invisible (and probably driven a lot away from their former hobby too.)

Given the times this might strain credibility, but perhaps a little more understandable if you compare to hobbyist fencers or HEMA types with epees, foils, sabres, etc. It's not like those weapons have a "purpose" beyond the hobby, even though they were originally designed to kill.
posted by mark k at 12:03 PM on July 23 [22 favorites]


Billions (yes, billions, with a B) of .22LR cartridges are manufactured in the US, every year. If the only use for them was killing people, we'd be extinct. Recreational shooting is a huge sport.

Buying a troubled kid a handgun to use unsupervised is a whole different issue.
posted by Bee'sWing at 12:13 PM on July 23 [12 favorites]


So from the article, it seems like this trial is happening in a very pro-gun area, which does not require safe storage of firearms, where the prosecutor does not believe they would be able to achieve a conviction on the “semi straw purchase of a gun/leaving the gun unsecured” alone. But there is apparently a lot of sentiment in the community that the mother is un-motherly, and so the prosecutor is combining the two - they are not on trial for simply giving him access to the firearm used to kill, but for being Bad Parents who should have raised their son better than to kill. Exhibits of the messy rooms are being shown, for example, and there’s a lot of discussion about how the mother “wore the pants” in the relationship. There’s even discussion about whether the father will cut a deal and pin it all on the mother, even though he’s the one who actually purchased the gun for his son. And I find this kind of thing deeply concerning and a bad precedent that will absolutely be used against women, especially black or brown women, that don’t meet social norms of American Motherhood in the future.
posted by corb at 12:24 PM on July 23 [69 favorites]


Here’s the section regarding possible racial impacts:

Primus, the University of Michigan Law School professor, also points out that, as gun possession becomes more criminalized, arrests and punishments will land disproportionately on Black and brown parents. She notes that Christopher Head, the defendant in the precedent-setting gross-negligence gun case in Michigan, is Black. “What happened at that school is awful. Obviously, Ethan Crumbley has to answer for that,” Primus says. “But I worry about the expanding criminal footprint.”

Essentially all arrests and punishments for everything land disproportionately on Black and brown people. This could be used as an argument against basically all laws. In terms of holding people responsible for crimes committed with guns they purchased, it is not clear that Black parents would be at greater risk. Gun ownership is higher for white people in the US. The professor might have been thinking about crimes committed with any guns, but I personally don’t think it is relevant to the issue as I see it. To me, it is not about holding parents responsible for anything their kids do, it is holding parents responsible for their guns. Incentivizing keeping guns safe or not giving guns to kids is something that could stop many school shootings. Slippery slope or unintended effects arguments seem to be offering precious little in comparison, if anything.
posted by snofoam at 12:39 PM on July 23 [21 favorites]


Yes, I don't like any of this, but I do think it's worth reading the whole article. While I can understand, on an emotional level, the approach taken by the prosecution here, it seems like a way to expand the carceral state and punish individuals for what are ultimately structural problems. And given how the criminal justice system "works," it seems quite likely this would impact Black and brown Americans disproportionately.

I know it's easier said than done, but I'd rather see laws to require the safe storage of firearms, laws against minors using shooting ranges, and other gun laws. In this case, if the guns had been locked up (which, as others have pointed out, is not a law in Michigan), this could have been prevented. And better funding for school counselors, I mean, this part from the article is heartbreaking and infuriating:

Ethan’s guidance counselor, testified in court that he was one of four counselors at the high school looking after the needs of 1,800 kids. This gave him time to see each student for ten minutes once a year, barring crises.

And I'd like to see more funding for helping parents recognize the difference between normal teenage moodiness and a warning sign. What with so much of teenager's lives happening online these days, it's getting ever harder for parents to keep track of what is going on with their kids - yes, there were warning signs here that the shooter was mentally unwell, but from the article, it was not clear to the adults in his life that he was planning anything violent.

Which isn't to say I don't think parents in this situation should get off the hook entirely. But there are ways to pay back society that don't entail locking somebody up. Make them volunteer, force them to tell their story to auditorium after auditorium of other parents, etc. There has to a better option.

Finally, I don't like that his 15 year-old kid is being charged as an adult. What he did was horrific, full stop. But I refuse to believe someone should have to be locked up for the rest of their life for anything they did as a 15 year-old, no matter how horrific.
posted by coffeecat at 12:50 PM on July 23 [11 favorites]


So from the article, it seems like this trial is happening in a very pro-gun area, which does not require safe storage of firearms, where the prosecutor does not believe they would be able to achieve a conviction on the “semi straw purchase of a gun/leaving the gun unsecured” alone.

To me, this is kind of the crux of the issue. I don't think parents should be prosecuted because they don't know everything about their kid. I think they should be prosecuted for firearms offenses. And not for the sake of punishing them, but to incentivize behavior that makes guns less accessible to potential mass murderers.
posted by snofoam at 1:00 PM on July 23 [12 favorites]


So imagine my underage kid is clearly inebriated to anyone bothering to pay attention and since I'm not, I toss them the car keys and tell them to go out and have a good time. If they kill someone, am I culpable? I'd sure as hell think so.

The discussions about the purpose of guns and every other tangent seems immaterial here.
posted by Ickster at 1:01 PM on July 23 [13 favorites]


(And it is probably also worth saying, incentivizing gun safety also helps protect troubled kids from doing something that ruins their own life, too.)
posted by snofoam at 1:02 PM on July 23 [6 favorites]


So at first, I couldn't open the first article from New York Magazine, and only read the others. Now, after having read the New York Mag article, I feel the school is equally responsible. It takes a village, and you can't expect all parents to be perfect all the time, which is why the community has to help. The parents were going through a rough time and neglected their teenager. This is something that happens all over the world all the time. They weren't good at parenting, the dad was probably drinking and smoking too much, the mum escaping to work and horse-barns. Nothing about this is good, but it is also so normal, I think everyone either has gone through this or has a close friend or relative who has. I have been that child. Many friends and family members have been those parents, and that includes friends and family members who are otherwise well within societal norms.
The kid was really suffering and even though the parents and the school noticed, none of them did the right thing.
All those things could have happened here, and it does happen all the time. Parents are stressed, schools and psychiatry are underfunded. This is bad, and we have to change it.

That said, if this had been in a place where gun ownership is restricted, four children would still be alive. It really comes down to the guns. I can see how this trial might lead to some relevant discussion about gun safety and liability. But it could also lead to some really unhealthy policing of family life.

For what it is worth, some 15 years ago, our local paper held a competition about the worst teenage room. I sent in an image of my daughter's room, that was pretty similar in terms of mess to the one in the article (but with no targets or dead animals). It wasn't even in the finale, because one could see glimpses of the floor. My daughter is now a very well adjusted member of society and a young mother with a beautiful home.
posted by mumimor at 1:23 PM on July 23 [14 favorites]


Honestly curious now...
Is there a purpose for a handgun which isn't "killing or injuring a human"?


Phallic surrogate?
posted by Thorzdad at 1:58 PM on July 23 [5 favorites]


I am a little bit worried, and maybe this is minor in the face of things, that depending on the outcome of this case, not reading your kid’s journal and all their text messages might be seen as neglectful. (Obviously there was other neglect going on here, but as a former teenager I take the privacy of my private thoughts and personal correspondence very seriously.)
If some authority parents pay attention to teaches that respecting your child’s privacy is neglectful, that seems like a recipe for something bad, too.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:24 PM on July 23 [15 favorites]


Finally, I don't like that his 15 year-old kid is being charged as an adult.

i don't like that they're charging him as an adult and then turning around and telling the parents that he's YOUR kid, you should have been responsible for him

i don't know if one can have it both ways

as for me, i'm not opposed to the idea of keeping a gun in the house for self-protection - except that my 26 year old daughter is autistic and has shown very poor impulse control and anger management at times - i would be absolutely negligent if i were to leave a loaded gun around, even hidden in my bedroom - but if i had it unloaded or in a safe, i probably wouldn't be able to get it in time to protect myself

so i don't own a gun and don't plan on getting one

they should have known better - they should have been paying more attention to their son and less time gratifying themselves with horses and beer and whatever - but is any of that illegal?

the school counselor was a mandatory reporter if he believed the kid was a danger to himself or others but he didn't report him - if he didn't know, why should they know? - if he's not being held responsible, how can they be held responsible? - and now the prosecutor is bringing up horses and affairs and what have you - the simple fact is, if any of these are ruled out of line in an appeal, it's all going back to trial

yes, he should not have been able to take that gun and kill people with it - but it wasn't against the law to have it unlocked where he could have access to it

i don't question for a minute that they are morally responsible - but legally responsible? under michigan's current laws, that could be pretty tough to prove
posted by pyramid termite at 2:31 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


Most parents asking for advice would be harshly criticized for reading a child's journal. I live in a small town, and the whole didn't go to football games, not tied into the school hits hard. My kid was difficult, probably bipolar, angry. Help was uncommonly difficult to find. Effective help was elusive. I tried hard, read books and articles and talked to teachers and counselors, and they were just not much help. He liked 1 sport, so I really supported that. Computer was in an open space and I checked the history. (teenage boy, porn, ick)

Buying this kid a gun was a terrible idea. Maybe his Mom thought he needed toughness or masculine bullshit, to get out of mental illness she didn't want to believe in. Humans develop beliefs in line with their social group, and the pro-gun folks are quite vocal. I can't say I think much of her. I can't say the Dad was engaged or effective. The Dad's bought the gun. The school failed pretty extravagantly (see also, police at Uvalde). I think this case will ultimately fail, either in local courts, or higher ones.

I'd be really interested in the child's diagnosis. We keep having these massive, horrific events, and this kid sounds definitively mentally ill, but the expression of it is a reflection of the violent gun culture in the US.
posted by chekhov's sock at 2:43 PM on July 23 [12 favorites]


Also, I know we can’t prosecute the culture described here:

It’s not unusual to see kids at the Accurate Range, which markets itself as a family place. Situated in a shedlike building next to a software firm and across the street from a Taco Bell, the range resembles a suburban bowling alley down to its crowded parking lot and the flashing green-and-red OPEN sign in the front window. Accurate has a party space, and it promotes seniors mornings with free coffee and doughnuts and Mother’s Day with free gun rentals and snacks. It co-sponsors church dinners, and when it exhibits its wares at gun shows, it advertises “kid-friendly outdoor activities, raffles/door prizes, and beautiful wildlife displays.” Under federal law, it is illegal for a minor to own a handgun, but the same law includes an exemption for target practice. The Crumbleys had sometimes gone to the range during the pandemic. A signed waiver for Ethan was already on file.

But that stood out to me as a factor.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:11 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


Target practice at a range is a reason. Not actually shooting at anyone the two times people brought me to one.

I have never understood charging teens as adults when they are not 18. Isn't that the point, that they are not?!
posted by jenfullmoon at 3:44 PM on July 23 [9 favorites]


It's funny how gun lovers often validate the need for the very restrictions they oppose.
posted by Beholder at 4:12 PM on July 23 [3 favorites]


If the diary entries are accurate and truthful, his parents are nothing less than negligent monsters.
In the midst of Covid our younger child asked to see a mental healthcare professional (thank you Unitarian-Universalist Our Whole Lives health classes). He was suffering from anxiety, depression, auditory/visual hallucinations (brought on by the anxiety), and, as it turns out, gender dysphoria. The therapist also alerted us to thoughts of self-harm and harming others. Do you know what I did? I IMMEDIATELY disabled all the firearms I own by removing the firing pins and, at the first opportunity, I removed all firearms and ammunition from our home. Those parents should be jailed.
posted by AJScease at 4:12 PM on July 23 [24 favorites]


I just wanted to acknowledge the difficulty of raising kids in a gun heavy culture - but if I ever did what these parents did I would expect to be guilty of crimes. And I have thought about this a lot - It has kept me up at night. I have younger children with autism related behavioral challenges. We have agreed with their medical team that we should not have them near firearms. We try and be a no gun family in terms of toys or computer games (as well as never having owned or let them near real firearms), and we talk openly with them about why we are a no gun family.

And it’s still just fucking hard to keep them safe and way from weapons. They go on play dates where the other kids will just announce they know where “Dad’s gun safe” is…and then will proceed to show it. Good friends of ours used our standalone garage to store their stuff between apartment moves. I went in to put away some garden tools and there was literally a hunting rifle just sitting there on top of their stuff…in our garage my kids could access. Our friends were very aware of our kid’s issues, but it honestly never occurred to them (they were beyond mortified about it and moved the weapon immediately as soon as I texted them and we are still very close). I grew up in New Zealand - and played with toy guns for sure - but no household I knew owned guns or used them. I know NZ has gun ranges - but I never went to one or knew of anyone going to one. This aspect of being in the US will always be the most foreign to me.
posted by inflatablekiwi at 4:18 PM on July 23 [11 favorites]


I don't think the prosecutor will succeed or will lose on appeal. Nothing that was done was illegal.

What upsets me more is that a kid in a serious mental health crisis had no options before the shooting and still doesn't. Even if he succeeds in pleading insanity, he'll still be locked up.

More guns. More jails. More cops. We're trapped in a death cult that's impervious to logic or facts, whether we believe in it or not.

The only positive outcome I can think of is maybe some of the complacent gun-loving types might be a little shaken up, maybe question whether the cost is worth it.
posted by emjaybee at 4:21 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


...bwah?? How are these notional parents not immediately "accessories before the fact"

Criminal liability as an accessory before the fact requires more intent. In one formulation, “[o]ne who is an accessory before the fact or one who aids and abets necessarily enters into an agreement that an unlawful act will be done. [The individual] participates in the design of the felony.” Malone v. State (Miss.1986) 486 So.2d 360, 364. I haven't checked, but I wouldn't be surprised if that goes back to Blackstone and older English common law definitions.

Criminal negligence or recklessness is more fitting generically; and this is why some states have statutory storage and access laws. (When you have a statute, you don't need to rely on these catch-alls.)
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:44 PM on July 23 [7 favorites]


Inflatablekiwi - I too grew up in NZ .... back in the day, in high school, in the height of summer, we were required to put on itchy woollen uniforms for 2 weeks and play at being soldiers, that included a lot of gun worship, and a little bit of shooting, I think all boys were required to do that - it was a hang over from those who had returned from WW2 wanting to make 'men' of their sons .... and was likely done in by a combination of the Vietnam debacle and the 60s/70s hippies .... I spent my teenage years with the spectre of the draft hanging over me and only missed out when they canceled it when I was 17 and a half (for the Americans here our draft was just for training, we still had to volunteer to go though there was a strong push by the RSA at the time to force us to go)

Circling back - most kiwi men of a certain age had had some gun training - but most have never owned a gun or had any desire to do so.
posted by mbo at 5:14 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


Finally, I don't like that his 15 year-old kid is being charged as an adult.
There is older case that has some bearing.

Nathaniel Abraham Trial: 1999.
"Only 11 years old at the time of his arrest, Nathaniel Abraham became the youngest American convicted of murder as an adult. His trial spotlighted the controversial issue of trying juvenile offenders in adult court."
posted by clavdivs at 5:40 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


She gave him the gun. That makes an accessory.
posted by JustSayNoDawg at 6:01 PM on July 23


mumimor I really do appreciate your presence on this site immensely and regularly, but when NorthWestern Europeans weigh in on US gun or teenage culture it’s not unlike when y’all weigh in on bikes. The actual lived experience, expectations, politics, healthcare and legal environment diverge so significantly as to render the whole thing kind of an exercise in abstraction.
posted by aspersioncast at 7:19 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


How are these notional parents not immediately "accessories before the fact" if they supply a weapon to a murderer?

She gave him the gun. That makes an accessory

I’m fairly sure to be considered an accessory one generally has to have had some knowledge that the crime would be committed.
posted by atoxyl at 8:05 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


I’m fairly sure to be considered an accessory one generally has to have had some knowledge that the crime would be committed.

I think based on the information shared with the parents before the shooting, the argument is that they DID have knowledge that a crime could be committed and then supplied the murder weapon. It's no different than every Dateline episode ever. And unless trashy prime time TV has deceived me (now also a podcast!), you go to jail for that.
posted by Toddles at 9:17 PM on July 23 [1 favorite]


mumimor I really do appreciate your presence on this site immensely and regularly, but when NorthWestern Europeans weigh in on US gun or teenage culture it’s not unlike when y’all weigh in on bikes.

I'm not sure what this means? The "I really do appreciate.... but" seems to suggest you're saying mumimor's comments, as an outsider to US culture, are not appreciated?

I apologise if that's not what you mean?

If it is what you mean, that seems rather unreasonable. An outsider's perspective, presented as such, is perfectly relevant, especially to US conversations where it so often seems that the people immersed in that culture are not aware that other options and realities exist.
posted by Zumbador at 10:04 PM on July 23 [33 favorites]


every state law is different but an accessory before the fact generally means an aider and abettor/accomplice, meaning they shared the perpetrator's intent and are equally guilty. that wouldnt apply here. an accessory after the fact basically knows nothing of the crime until it's over but helps cover it up. that is a fairly minor crime and also doesnt apply here.

involuntary manslaughter, which is what was charged here, means you did something so reckless and negligent that someone got killed even though you didnt intend it. classic case is leaving a dog you knew was a killer unleashed on your property next door to a place with little kids. that's what these parents are essentially being accused of. it's fair.

as for why the defendant is being charged as an adult-- most states have exceptions to the juvenile system for heinous crimes bc the juvenile system is designed purely for rehabilitation, not punishment. this asshole killed four kids in cold blood. you dont rehabilitate him. you lock him up forever, or else he will kill again, and you insult the victims' families and society as a whole.
posted by wibari at 10:45 PM on July 23


Can someone help me understand the way mental health, especially autism related issues, fit into this discussion?

To me, it seems that the child's mental health or neurodivergent status is not relevant?

Seeing as the vast majority of people with mental health issues don't kill other people? Same for neurodivergent people?

In a way, it seems to me that being male in the US is a very interesting condition. Male people are considered normal and sane even when they use hateful language, obsess about deadly weapons, and need to dominate any situation they are in. But when they step over the line to do something violent, they are suddenly mentally ill?

Acknowledging that I'm not a parent, let alone a parent of an autistic child so I probably just don't get it, but isn't having ANY kind of child in your care reason enough not to have a dangerous weapon accessible?

Why the emphasis on mental health?

Isn't it a big old stinky red herring?

I mean, looking at the facts, it would make way more sense pathologising being male, than being autistic or whatever mental health lable applies to this child.

If you don't like that idea, why are you comfortable with pathologising autism, or whatever mental health condition?
posted by Zumbador at 11:12 PM on July 23 [4 favorites]


IANAL, but it seems to be that there'd be a case to be made here for felony murder, except that the straw purchase probably isn't a predicate felony in any jurisdiction. So let's do that, make straw purchases predicate felonies for charging someone with felony murder.
posted by hades at 12:42 AM on July 24 [3 favorites]


Hard cases make bad law. There's so much going on here, I think you'd need to see a significant amount of evidence from the family's life to be able to prosecute the parents on the balance of probabilities, let along beyond reasonable doubt.

I'm curious about why his friend wasn't allowed to speak to him any more after he entered inpatient treatment- is that normal? I would have expected unwell teens to be encouraged to keep in touch with their friends, unless the friendship was encouraging the illness.
posted by Braeburn at 12:57 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about why his friend wasn't allowed to speak to him any more after he entered inpatient treatment- is that normal?

Yeah, I had a friend who had a pretty severe drinking problem and suicidal (and hid it well we didn't find out until he was admitted). They did not let anyone but his mom see or talk to him, he was estranged from his kids and ex-wife unfortunately. I don't know the rationale keeping his friends from seeing him, I'm guessing since they don't know who the bad influences are they just keep everyone away? He did not make it so my view of inpatient treatment protocol (and forced treatment) is pretty low.
posted by geoff. at 2:14 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


It's also interesting how our culture has completely skipped the more traditional way of raising your kid to kill stuff, BB gun, then a single shot 22, then a single shot rifle or shotgun. Nope. Straight to the high cap semi auto for junior.
posted by Beholder at 2:30 AM on July 24 [10 favorites]


Seeing as the vast majority of people with mental health issues don't kill other people? Same for neurodivergent people?

He was delusional to the point of having hallucinations about demons. The article I thought went to lengths not to make the lazy connection of people with mental health issues being violent. In fact I think it was actually sympathetic to the fact the boy wanted to see a therapist, and wanted to get help. He was not merely an angsty teenager, he really needed to be under the care of a doctor and receiving medical treatment. The parents were not really capable of dealing with a child with what sounds like pretty severe psychological issues, but that's difficult to judge as really what parents are.

The mom seemed to have hang-ups about therapy and thinking she could solve it herself. That's pretty common unfortunately. It is also unclear if they let him play with the gun as a toy or were responsible about it. His texts seemed to indicate his dad hid the gun... so I can't tell if they let him play with it or if he just got ahold of it. If you're going to charge with involuntary manslaughter that seems important. Also she took him to the range so presumably was trying to teach him responsible gun ownership. I know guns are not popular on Metafilter but it doesn't seem like they just bought him a gun and let him play with it. I am conflicted as even though they aren't going to win parents of the year it seems like a bad thing to prosecute. I also get the feeling if the parents has been more to the norms of the town this would not have been prosecuted, there's definitely small town drama here.

As others have stated in America it is really, really hard to keep guns away from kids who are determined to get to them, especially rural America.
posted by geoff. at 3:33 AM on July 24 [4 favorites]


My family apparently had a gun in the house the entire time I was growing up. My sibling and I were not incurious, yet did not know of its existence or location for over half the time (perhaps had we lived in the same house consistently the whole time, this might have been a little different). We almost never knew where the ammunition was. I believe the more traditional - and now legally mandated in some states - way of easily and effectively keeping kids away from household guns is via gun locker (separate ammunition locker being a further recommendation), since I will give the benefit of the doubt that most parents are not as clever at hiding things from their kids as mine were, rather than assuming that they aren’t putting in an honest effort at it. Point is, though, it is a solved problem and should not actually be all that difficult, modulo the issue of neighbours or kids’ friends’ parents being incautious or negligent.
posted by eviemath at 5:32 AM on July 24


as for why the defendant is being charged as an adult-- most states have exceptions to the juvenile system for heinous crimes bc the juvenile system is designed purely for rehabilitation, not punishment. this asshole killed four kids in cold blood. you dont rehabilitate him. you lock him up forever, or else he will kill again, and you insult the victims' families and society as a whole.

Which is a lot of bullshit, these choices. Because kids are not adults. People's brains aren't even done developing until like age 23.

Also: we don't rehabilitate adults either.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:07 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


Being unwilling or unable to get mental health treatment for a teenager is unfortunately pretty common and shouldn't be criminalized. Education and resources are what you need there. Not having your gun in a gun safe is also common (unfortunately). As for whether it should be criminalized--I bet a lot of the local people eager for prosecution here would not be on board.

The father was intermittently employed, always home, always high, and bought the gun, but people are blaming the mother, of course. Even when she's the breadwinner, she's also supposed to be the primary caretaker. He can just grill and smoke up and let her handle things, including their deeply troubled son.

Prosecuting these parents is an individual response to a systemic problem and would set a precedent that would be used against "bad" mothers and POC. Bad parenting wouldn't end up with a lot of dead kids if anything in American society worked.
posted by Mavri at 6:19 AM on July 24 [14 favorites]


If it is what you mean, that seems rather unreasonable. An outsider's perspective, presented as such, is perfectly relevant, especially to US conversations where it so often seems that the people immersed in that culture are not aware that other options and realities exist.

When a thread is about European things, American mefites are often reminded that they are so immersed in American "culture [that they] are not aware that other options and realities exist" and so should pipe down.

Apparently now the same rule applies to Americans discussing things that Europeans are otherwise happy to look down on as pathologically American?

It's OK to be tired of Americans, I'm tired of us too, but c'mon. The point was simply that directly applying European sensibilities doesn't work in some policy contexts, because of baseline differences (whether that's the Second Amendment, or cities built out during the height of the freeway era).
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:25 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


I suspect, but have no cite to show, that the practice of charging children as adults is rooted in racism, although it does apply to white children when the state feels like it.

Mefi's own Scott Adams lost a stepson to fentanyl addiction. I only know this because he was trending on Twitter a bit ago. Did it change him? Did it teach him humility? Well, what do you think? (cw: filicide) That's what it looks like when a guy whose only permissible emotions are anger and control has to contend with suffering and grief.

I bring it up here because Scott Adams sucks, but he was a parent, and millions of troubled kids are stuck with parents who suck. In that situation, or even in the situation of parents who try hard but have no idea what to do (or how to pay for it), it is very hard for a young man in our society to get help, or even be recognized as a person who needs help. What do we do with unparented teens near their breaking point? (Has any society sorted this out?)
posted by Countess Elena at 6:26 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


Dickensian attitudes towards the children of the poor, greatly aggravated by racism.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:46 AM on July 24


This kid was asking his parents for help repeatedly over a period of years, texting them about demons being in the house, wondering if they would be mad at him if he called 911 on himself to actually get some help. And his parents' response, over and over, was to ignore him or tell him to "suck it up," which to a teenage boy means "man up."

And the really tragic thing? "Man up" is exactly what he did. Because the whole point of ignoring, belittling a child's emotions, and telling a child to suck it up is to teach the child that their feelings are meaningless and unreal in any practical sense.... until the only way to make them real to anyone else is to use violence. This is how toxic masculinity is transmitted.

A child has an untreated, undiagnosed mental illness that causes terrifying hallucinations. For years on end his parents greet every plea for help with "lol fuck ur feelings." And people are surprised that shit like this keeps happening?
posted by cubeb at 7:06 AM on July 24 [21 favorites]


I'm much more persuaded by the "inadequate parenting" plus "gave the kid a handgun" than I would be with just the former. Buying that gun for him after all the warning signs is egregious.

That said, I share all the concerns raised in this thread. The excessive focus on the mother is very disturbing (but sadly typical).
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 7:46 AM on July 24 [6 favorites]


This case would also seem to bolster the argument that all legally purchased guns should be insured, like cars. Do the Crumbleys have the means to compensate these four families for the loss of their children? Of course not.

At this point a certain number of wrongful deaths are a perfectly foreseeable consequence of treating guns like any other consumer product. So, make the consumers cover the liability, collectively.
posted by anhedonic at 8:37 AM on July 24 [7 favorites]


When a thread is about European things, American mefites are often reminded that they are so immersed in American "culture [that they] are not aware that other options and realities exist" and so should pipe down.

Sorry for the derail but I'd like to respond to this.

Firstly, I'm just me, and I'm not one of the people in those threads berating Americans for whatever it was they were being berated for.

Apart from anything else, from my point of view the Europeans and British people are just a step below the Americans when it comes to being rather blind to their cultural assumptions.

I don't object to people commenting on whatever they like. As long as, like mumimor, they're self aware enough to present it as their opinion, informed by their biases.

Some cultures are more powerful than others. Bizarre cultural tangles in America, around masks, guns, and abortions, affect the rest of us in ways that may surprise you. And we're rather more knowledgeable about you, than you are about us because it's damn near impossible to escape your influence.

I don't hate on Americans, I'm immersed in your culture although I live right on the other side of the globe. And I love a lot of it. After all, I love Metafilter, right? And hang out here?

But sometimes I want to shake some of you and shout "hey! I'm here too! I actually exist, and I have my own opinions!"

Mumimor was not even doing that, they were being really polite, and still got a "stay in your lane"
posted by Zumbador at 9:01 AM on July 24 [21 favorites]


that seems rather unreasonable...US conversations where it so often seems that the people immersed in that culture are not aware that other options and realities exist....

A polite scolding is still a scolding. The ugly American complaint rarely adds anything to the discussion, however it's couched; and it's even less helpful when it's American culture under discussion. It is exactly the equivalent of inserting American culture into discussions of other contexts.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:08 AM on July 24


I'm sure you're aware of the concept of white fragility, snufflspagus? As a white South African raised under apartheid I'm rather prone to it myself. When someone reminds me that I have privilege, and make me aware that they don't agree with me and might view me in ways that don't align with the way I see myself, it stings. It feels like I'm being scolded.
But that's my problem.
I remind myself that this person who seems to be scolding me, had no power to silence me, in fact, usually the opposite. And them reminding me that other points of view exist, or that they disagree with me, is just that.
Them talking to me.
I'm not being silenced or scolded, just exposed to an uncomfortable point of view of myself. I can take a look at that point of view and decide I don't agree with it, if that makes sense to me.
posted by Zumbador at 9:28 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


It is exactly the equivalent of inserting American culture into discussions of other contexts.

ask me where most of the guns used in violent crime in Canada come from
posted by elkevelvet at 10:13 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


Buying that gun for him after all the warning signs is egregious.

I think part of the article's point was that they missed the warning signs or misinterpreted them as a moody teenager and they seem to be prosecuted largely just for this. Which other posters have mentioned is kind of a dangerous precedent to assume parents should go through their child's text and diary.

The gun seemed like a bonding or outlet for him, the family definitely had a Western ethos. See the comment she made about making him a cowboy.

It is a real thin line between "that's not what I consider good parenting" and "this is criminal negligence." I think I've mentioned this before but I dated a woman once who was schizophrenic. That's different than a child but it took me a couple months to discover this and in retrospect it seemed really obvious. She talked about her ex-boyfriend spying on her, driving by the house, looking through windows. I assumed he was abusive, and never saw it and oddly she didn't want to make a police report. She'd make odd comments but I thought she was just a bit quirky.

It was not until she accused me of putting cameras in her home to spy on her and she definitely wasn't making an odd joke I realized she had serious issues. I can completely see him saying there's demons in the house is not seen as a hallucination but maybe written off as attention seeking behavior? Similar to a much younger child saying there's monsters under the bed. He begged to see a therapist, but it was until literally right until the end and when they did apparently attempt to keep the gun from him was his behavior truly and undeniably disturbing.

I'm not condoning the parent's behavior I'm just saying that we were given incidences of a pretty disturbed individual but I bet 90% of the time he was seen as a normal, if not moody teenager. Like the woman I dated was fine most of the time but she definitely had days or incidences and if I had not been more astute and asked her family what was up I could have taken the cameras in the house as her trying to just pick a fight with me.
posted by geoff. at 10:56 AM on July 24 [6 favorites]


I'm an American, and I thought all of mumimor's points were thoughtful, and demonstrated they read the full article (unlike some other comments here). I thought the whole point of FPP's were to provide articles that all users could discuss together provided they all did the reading, no?

Anyway, mainly want to respond to this:

Why the emphasis on mental health?

Isn't it a big old stinky red herring?

I mean, looking at the facts, it would make way more sense pathologising being male, than being autistic or whatever mental health lable applies to this child.

If you don't like that idea, why are you comfortable with pathologising autism, or whatever mental health condition?


I take issue with the use of "pathologizing" here. Being aware of and taking seriously instances of strong correlation between mental health crises and gun violence isn't pathologzing anything. One of the first thing the people who answer calls to suicide hotlines do is to ask the caller if they have access to any weapons. And researchers who have studied this issue methodically find a very strong correlation between mass shootings and mental health problems. Yes, most people who struggle with mental health don't become mass shooters, but most mass shooters do have severe mental health struggles - given we can't make all of the guns in the US just disappear, people who have devoted their lives to studying this issue suggest a two prong approach that advocates for both greater gun control as well as mental health support. I don't see how one could possibly see this as a "red herring."
posted by coffeecat at 10:58 AM on July 24 [5 favorites]


I think part of the article's point was that they missed the warning signs or misinterpreted them as a moody teenager and they seem to be prosecuted largely just for this.

They also didn't just "give" him the gun, strictly speaking. The parents "hid" it (however badly), and he was only to use it under supervision at the local shooting range, which was technically legal and socially accepted. I certainly think it should be illegal to not properly secure a gun kept at home, just like I think it should be illegal for minors to engage in target practice, but none of this is the case in Michigan. I'm not sure how going after two individuals (the parents) while leaving the various laws in place, really accomplishes anything but set a slippery precedent.
posted by coffeecat at 11:05 AM on July 24 [6 favorites]


Thanks for that, coffeecat. That makes sense. I guess my red herring comment came from the sense that the people involved in prosecuting this case seem to see addressing the gun control aspect as a lost cause, and are only focusing on the mental health aspect?

I mean, this child clearly desperately needed help with their mental health. And their mental health contributed to their actions. But to me, it seems so obvious that without access to a gun, they wouldn't have been able to do nearly as much harm? And surely (surely?) controlling a child's access to a gun is something that can actually be achieved, while dealing with his inner demons and helping him heal and find his balance is a much more complex challenge.

But I guess I'm wrong about that.
posted by Zumbador at 11:11 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


Oh, I agree that the number one way to prevent gun deaths is to greatly restrict access to guns. But as the recent history of gun control regulations in the US shows, passing gun regulations at the federal level is currently ridiculously hard. And Michigan's state house is Republican-run, so there is unlikely to be any headway there anytime soon (though there was a law passed (in 2018 I think?) to prevent gerrymandering in the state, so perhaps there is hope in the long-term). Anyway, this seems a clear case where a red flag law (where people can restrict gun access from those deemed a risk to themselves or the public) would have been helpful - Michigan does not currently have one, but the recent Bill passed by Congress has created incentives for states to put these in place.
posted by coffeecat at 11:29 AM on July 24 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure how going after two individuals (the parents) while leaving the various laws in place, really accomplishes anything but set a slippery precedent.

It lets the pro-gun people convince themselves the problem is "personal responsibility" so the laws don't need to change.
posted by threementholsandafuneral at 11:30 AM on July 24 [6 favorites]


In the rural midwest if a kid wants to get ahold of the gun they're going to find a way to get it. Did him having access to the gun, even if the parents tried to hide it, cause this to happen sooner? Sure but it is quite clear that when mass shooters fixate on this they find a way to get a firearm.

I don't think it can be emphasized how common guns are, especially in the rural midwest. I hate to throw up my hands and say well there's too many guns we won't ever be able to control them but he was nearly an adult and would have been able to purchase one legally soon anyway.

Even requiring gun safes is problematic, how do you prosecute someone who doesn't use the gun safe but says they have the gun on them for protection? It seems any meaningful gun laws would be reactive and not actually do anything to stop mass shootings but just prosecute after the fact. Clearly mass shooters are not concerned with consequences.

Most mass shooters tell a friend or post about it online. I think a good first step is a suicide hotline type of service where friends or concerned family can call and get immediate help knowing they're not going to send anyone to jail or get anyone in trouble. It is frankly scary calling 911 and no one wants to get a friend in trouble.

Even banning people under 18 from using gun ranges will likely do little as I guarantee you again in rural Michigan someone has land or a farm that they'd use for the same purpose. Really as long as it is culturally acceptable people will find ways around it. I'm not against gun control laws I think there's just more effective means and ones that will have a much higher chance of not getting shot down by voters.
posted by geoff. at 11:36 AM on July 24


Another American here to say that I welcome non-Americans' thoughts on our gun culture, teen culture, bike culture, or whatever else. There are obnoxious ways that can happen, but I haven't seen that here. And even if done obnoxiously, it's still not the same thing as Americans on an American-dominated but nominally international website sucking up all the oxygen in threads about non-American topics. Just my 2 cents, I won't draw out that derail any further.

I think there's an understandable backlash against the perpetual reframing of what is clearly most primarily an issue about the lack of gun control and sensible gun policy into a discussion about the mental health of mass shooters. At the same time, not all mental health issues are the same, and we do us all a disservice if we treat them as such. A person experiencing violent hallucinations and delusions, and who has personally expressed fear at their own violent impulses is a very different case from someone experiencing upsetting but nonviolent hallucinations and delusions, and very different from someone experiencing severe chronic depression. Lumping them all under the label "has mental health issues" does a disservice to everyone. It's better to treat individual cases as individual cases, and in this particular case it seems like a reasonable person, even one with no specific training in handling mental illnesses, should have concluded that giving this child access to a firearm would be a risk to himself and to others. I don't know exactly how I feel about bringing criminal charges against the parents, but in my mind there's no question that they're morally responsible for what happened.
posted by biogeo at 11:57 AM on July 24 [8 favorites]


Yeah let me be crystal clear: as negligent and as callous as those parents were to their son, it does not mean for a second that "better mental health care is the only fix." Fuck that. It's not either/or, it's both/and.

Right now America has 12 guns for every ten people; just a decade ago it was nine guns for every ten people.
posted by cubeb at 12:07 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


In the rural midwest if a kid wants to get ahold of the gun they're going to find a way to get it.

it's more like at the edge of the detroit suburbs, but basically, anywhere you live in the usa, a kid's going to get a gun if he wants it
posted by pyramid termite at 12:29 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


I have read all the comments and the article and I've favorited both pro and con arguments against the parents. Frankly, I hope it all goes on for a long time, and that loads and loads and loads of parents and caregivers and teenagers and schools start to look at their own behavior and the laws of their state and feel very, very chilled over what might be the consequences for their actions or inaction regarding gun safety, laws and mental health. Things that are so apparent from this case:
  • young people below a certain age are impulsive and access to guns is greatly detrimental to everyone's health and happiness - young people must have a brain maturity to match the maturity required to have access to a firearm
  • not mandating gun safes is stupid and negligent
  • not having red flag laws is stupid and negligent
  • allowing children under the age of 18 to participate in firearm practice of any sort of firearm is stupid and negligent
  • most parents are flying without a net - if we want to provide the greatest amount of latitude and freedom for parents to make the best choices for their family, we need to provide more of a safety net. Kids should be able to access mental health services easily and freely - so should parents, Until such time, we don't need to allow the environment to be unsafe for them with access to instantaneous death tools with very little regulation
  • the pathologies shown in this child are common among so many adolescents as to be meaningless - since we actually can't differentiate who will become violent to themselves or others we must limit access to instantaneous death tools
  • the notion that a gun is a way to demonstrate responsibility, grit, manliness and fortitude is stupid and outdated. Sorry, dudes, I know it feels so good but so do a lot of things. Take up another hobby. This reminds me of the Sandy Hook killer. He also seemed to be being given access to guns as a bonding, supporting activity. I get the impulse as a parent: If I show you that I trust you to make these big, important, responsible, adult steps in life, you will feel empowered and emboldened and become a better person/man/citizen and stop doing whatever immature self-destructive shit that you were doing. Except, oops!, he couldn't handle it and used the instantaneous death tools to do just that.
  • Insurance. The parents bought the guns and the kid had access to them. Everyone needs fucking insurance for the time your instantaneous tools of death just go off and kill or injure a bystander. If you don't maintain insurance, you lose your boomsticks.
  • qualifying measures need to go into place to obtain and store weaponry. I bet none of these people would have been qualified to obtain weaponry using the kinds of measure that other countries who allow private gun ownership but require qualifying training, education and metrics before allowing this.

    I'm sorry, America is full of barking idiots and I'm gonna put these parents on this list of idiots who should not have had guns. They didn't need a gun for any damn thing in their life and if they did then they should have gone through rigorous qualifying training and demonstrated mental competency and insurance eligibility.
  • Those are my take-aways. I think it's great that so many people are pointing out how the scuttlebutt about these parents as bad parents is mostly 100% bullshit. And yeah, parents should be going, "OMG! If I don't do X then I'll be held liable for my child shooting up a school??!!" Yeah, BE SCARED, parents and don't have guns.
    posted by amanda at 12:30 PM on July 24 [8 favorites]


    it's more like at the edge of the detroit suburbs, but basically, anywhere you live in the usa, a kid's going to get a gun if he wants it

    …if we continue to do nothing to promote gun safety and hold gun owners accountable for their guns. Of all the challenges facing the US, gun safety is the one where it is most ridiculous to throw up our hands and say “There’s really just nothing we can do about it!”

    I understand that there is some chunk of people who would rather have children murdered than legislation requiring any sort of responsibility from gun owners or any restriction of guns that have no viable use for sport, hunting or self-defense. As much as I completely disagree with them, at least people who are willing to say that are more honest than people who take the exact same stance and just pretend that nothing could be done.
    posted by snofoam at 12:51 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


    it's more like at the edge of the detroit suburbs, but basically, anywhere you live in the usa, a kid's going to get a gun if he wants it

    MAKE. IT. HARDER.

    Maybe our grandchildren's children won't have to deal with all this absolutely insane shit if we just go ahead and do the work. Just do the work.
    posted by amanda at 1:06 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]


    Humble brag alert: I believe teenagers need as much supervision and guidance as preschoolers. Like very young children they are going through profound physical and mental shifts at the same time they are expected to be adults in judgment, maturity and responsibility.

    When I expressed this belief in divorce court that teens need someone at home (or close by) supporting them just like preschoolers do I got blank stares. The law said I was expected to leave my teen and preteen and work a 40 hour week, as if being a stay at home mom was a vacation and now I had to face facts--this country doesn't care about what parents do. I did face facts and I've been angry ever since. If a culture doesn't care about what parents do why should unstable, disturbed, irresponsible and thoughtless parents care? Give them a gun and show them where the refrigerator is. I realize now I was supposed to know parenting is its own reward, that no one really gives a shit about my kids except me, and if I didn't know that the courts told me, indirectly and right away.

    This is a polemic. I know stay at home parents can fuck up their kids. I was often a shitty parent. But really, why should any parent even try anymore? You'll just be screwed if your situation changes and money is gone. And it CAN be very oppressive at times, especially since ya don't get no respect or, you know, money.

    Another thing...I was a teacher and worked in many after school programs. The kids were exhausted and just wanted to go home, and I worked in some programs that get positive press. (Those were actually the worst). As I mom I would not want my child stored there day after day like so much unwanted cargo.
    P.S. If you're a millionaire you probably have a few more options, especially your access to mental health care in case your child's nanny notices some red flags.
    posted by mygraycatbongo at 1:30 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


    I agree with many others that the ‘bad parents’ thing is hugely problematic, but they did buy their kid a gun and he used it to kill others. If that sets a precedence, perhaps that would send a chill across the gun community.
    posted by Monday at 1:33 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


    MAKE. IT. HARDER.

    Well, yeah, duh.

    But the eternal question is how? Any attempt to put any sort of sensible gun control or ownership requirements are going to be met by an impenetrable wall of 2A advocacy. That’s the simple reality of america. Time after time, courts end up striking-down anything even remotely trying to make the reality of guns a little safer.

    The only way we will ever see sensible national gun legislation in the US will be the result of a long-term effort to secure a Democratic super-majority in both houses of Congress, a Democratic President, and a reliably non-conservative SCOTUS. All at the same time. Then, and only then, will nationwide laws be able to be passed, signed, and upheld. At my more-or-less advanced age, I doubt I will live to see it happen.
    posted by Thorzdad at 1:39 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


    But the eternal question is how? Any attempt to put any sort of sensible gun control or ownership requirements are going to be met by an impenetrable wall of 2A advocacy.

    I can't remember where I was reading it, but I recall reading somewhere that the absolute best way to change someone's behavior wasn't to forbid them to do the thing you didn't want them to do, but rather to incentivize the behavior that you do want them to do, or make it easier for them to do the thing that you want.

    I think this is particularly the case with gun issues, where increasing sort of negative regulation tends to create a counterintuitive effect. As a gun owner who is not part of the gun community but is adjacent to it, I see the activity that takes place every time negative regulatory gun control is discussed - there's panic buying. It is regular enough that I know people who regularly engage in what is essentially gun speculation - they buy guns at low ebbs, wait for a mass shooting to happen, and then sell them at absolutely insane prices to the wild demand. This means more guns in the community, not less.

    But there are a lot of things that people want that are not only eminently reasonable, they're things that gun owners themselves either want or could be incentivized to want. For example: gun safes are enormously expensive. It has never made sense to me why they aren't more subsidized - nearly every responsible person would prefer that gun owners lock their guns in secure gun safes large enough to accomodate all of their guns. Gun owners prefer it for reasons of theft and liability, but often do not do so because of prohibitively high cost. We could create tax incentives or other cost-alleviating measures that would make it easier for people to buy safes, or some sort of program that helps low-income people buy gun safes, and it would radically increase the amount of people safely storing their guns. In this case, the father hid the gun, so it's clear that he was trying to keep it away from his son. But he didn't own a gun safe. Why not, and what would get him and others like him there? That's how I would like to focus on this issue.

    Similarly, I'm a big fan of buyback programs, where people with firearms of questionable provenance can sell them back to the state, no questions asked. That has the effect of getting unregistered guns off the street, and over time, increasing the likelihood that all guns will be registered to a specific owner, which decreases the likelihood of them being used in violent incidents. In places where these programs don't exist, or where the buybacks are not even close to half of market rate, the incentive structure means that people are incentivized by financial need to sell these unlicensed guns to sketchy individuals who are willing to pay for an unlicensed gun and who are thus more likely to use it to harm others.

    I'm genuinely not sure why we don't do things like that more - my best guess is that it sounds like 'spending money on guns' and people don't want to do that. But I really think that's the most likely things to get through without pushback, and over time would absolutely nudge this issue in positive directions.
    posted by corb at 1:56 PM on July 24 [11 favorites]


    I agree with you corb. Yet, the gun involved here seems to have been registered.

    Didn’t stop it from killing people. Same with many other mass shooting incidents.

    Getting unregistered guns out of the hands of people is good, but it seems clear that registration of guns isn’t keeping these things from happening.
    posted by Windopaene at 2:46 PM on July 24


    "After the news of their charges, the Crumbleys allegedly withdrew $4,000 from an ATM and failed to meet a deadline to surrender themselves.

    The couple was tracked down by a fugitive team before being found 11 hours later in a basement."
    posted by clavdivs at 2:50 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


    I want to push back on the “if they want to get a gun, they’ll find a gun” narrative. Yes, even in communities where guns are more plentiful, such as Republican-leaning upper middle class white suburbs..

    From what I’ve read, it sounds like the vast majority of criminal activity is largely opportunity based more than pre-meditated (and that this is consistent from nonviolent property crimes up to the most violent crimes); and similar for some types of self-harm (eg. gun deaths by suicide). For example, I recall reading stats that deaths by suicide go up or down with ease of access to guns, independently of other factors. Relatedly, that men in the US tend to have higher rates of successful suicides versus non-lethal suicide attempts in part due to access to more efficient or effective means of killing themselves (mainly, that men are more likely to use a gun in a suicide attempt). The time required for someone intent on suicide to go out and obtain a gun from a friend or neighbour’s house is time in which someone could momentarily falter enough in their resolve to reach out for help (which, I read, occurs not infrequently when such time is available), or could run into someone who might intervene. Likewise, if someone intent on harming others has more obstacles in the way of obtaining a gun, crime data I’ve read indicates that a statistically significant percentage will be either dissuaded from their original intent, will choose to use less lethal means of harming others, or will be discovered and interrupted in their intent to harm.

    Will there still be cold-hearted, carefully planned murders? Of course. But my understanding is that does not actually account for the vast majority of gun deaths in the US (including mass shootings, even), which tend more often to be related to domestic violence, suicide, or accidental shootings in the case of younger kids. There is, from what I’ve read of research on gun violence, a slate of measures that work together to bring down the number of gun deaths - including suicides and domestic violence and mass shootings (which are all overlapping categories in the Venn diagram of gun violence, of course) - with each adding a modest contribution on its own but the combination amplifying the effects of the individual measures. I think corn‘s point about also using positive measures such as subsidizing gun safes is well-taken, and seems to align with what I’ve read about the research on what actually impacts gun deaths, as well.
    posted by eviemath at 3:11 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]


    Gun safes, especially for something like a 9MM are currently going for $50 on Amazon. If the family could afford to own a $500 gun and horses they can afford a $50 gun safe.

    I really think, however, unless we stigmatize gun ownership like tobacco use -- even if in a world we could actually pass sensible gun control laws -- it will largely be the best way forward. Guns really need to stop being seen as a rite of passage and necessary for protection. We need ads stigmatizing parents who give their kids access to guns and a push for gun ranges to not be family safe environments. Ideally the gun industry will regulate themselves, I can't imagine men under 25 who largely perpetuate these shootings are that large of a profit center for them.

    Also it is clear that there are websites or social media devoted to mass shootings, and these seem to be a large driver in these mass shooting incidents. I would love to see Google and social media sites bury these so they're impossible to find if they haven't already. Even have them bury sites that fetishize gun use would be a good step.

    And a lot of gun control laws without the accompanying cultural shift it appears would not have much of an effect. The kids are well kids and don't have criminal records, and it appears that gun safety laws do a lot to prevent crimes of passion but these were premeditated. He had parents, teachers, a dean, friends all see his obsession with guns and that itself should be seen as a warning.

    Also clavdivs that Sun article is poorly researched as it states that none of the three had mental health issues when we know at least the son did and there could be a case made the parents had substance abuse issues (they both had separate DUIs... in the same year). None of the other articles mentioned them hiding out so while I'm not saying that fact is not true so there might be more to that than article makes out.
    posted by geoff. at 3:13 PM on July 24


    I want to push back on the “if they want to get a gun, they’ll find a gun” narrative. Yes, even in communities where guns are more plentiful, such as Republican-leaning upper middle class white suburbs..

    Yes. The sheer, mind boggling NUMBER of guns in the USA is the rising tide that statistically lifts all mental health episodes closer to suicide and homicide. It's the rising tide that escalates impulsive moments of rage and despair into dead bodies.

    The numbers don't lie. One point two firearms for EVERY SINGLE AMERICAN. You know the statistic about how, on average, you are never more than 5 feet from a spider? In America it's guns: most Americans, most of their lives, are probably never more than a couple hundred feet from a gun. I don't like guns, I don't want to be around them, I have no use for them, I do not trust them, and their utility as suicide machines makes me frightened of having them near me. But despite all that, I am an American -- which means I cannot escape them, for the rest of my life.
    posted by cubeb at 3:25 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


    Guns are very much not evenly distributed in the US. A minority of people are gun owners, and of those there’s a subgroup that owns one or two guns per person, and a subgroup that owns an arsenal per person. I’m not sure that the claim that most Americans are within such and such distance from a gun is super accurate.
    posted by eviemath at 3:31 PM on July 24 [1 favorite]


    None of the other articles mentioned them hiding out so while I'm not saying that fact is not true so there might be more to that than article makes out.

    Detroit Free Press article about the parents hiding out and being apprehended by the cops:

    Police arrived at the scene, in the area of the 1100 block of Bellevue near E. Lafayette, about 10 p.m. or 10:30 p.m., Detroit Police Chief James White told reporters about 3 a.m. Saturday morning.

    It's believed the Crumbleys — facing charges of involuntary manslaughter connected to the Oxford High School mass shooting in which their son is accused — were let into a commercial building by someone, White said.

    Police know who that someone is and those who aided the couple could face criminal charges, White said.

    The Crumbleys were found hiding inside and were "distressed" White said. They were unarmed.

    He said security video had helped officers by revealing one of the Crumbleys entering the building.

    Authorities had been searching for the Crumbleys most of the day Friday after they were charged with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting deaths at the high school in northern suburban Detroit. Their son, Ethan Crumbley, is charged with terrorism and first-degree murder in the case.

    The Crumbley parents did not show for their arraignment Friday afternoon in Rochester Hills and the U.S. Marshals Service offered a reward for information leading to their arrests.


    I honestly don't know if these people should be criminally charged because it sounds like Michigan has some gigantic holes when it comes to gun safety laws. But my god, your son's in jail for murder and your response is to flee and save your own skin? That's just a terrible thing to do.
    posted by creepygirl at 3:31 PM on July 24 [10 favorites]


    Guns are very much not evenly distributed in the US. A minority of people are gun owners, and of those there’s a subgroup that owns one or two guns per person, and a subgroup that owns an arsenal per person. I’m not sure that the claim that most Americans are within such and such distance from a gun is super accurate.

    44 percent of Americans report having a gun in their house.

    Nearly half of all the households in America have at least one firearm.
    posted by cubeb at 3:38 PM on July 24 [2 favorites]


    Gun safes, especially for something like a 9MM are currently going for $50 on Amazon. If the family could afford to own a $500 gun and horses they can afford a $50 gun safe

    So I think the answer for most people who have guns is that they usually almost always could afford to own a gun safe, if they chose to make it their overarching priority and were willing to sell guns to accomplish that. But we know from their revealed preferences that they don't. And gun safes are generally expensive enough to create some sticker shock that disincentivizes them - while there was in fact one single-gun safe for 50$ on Amazon, the majority of single-handgun safes run around 100-150$. Most people do not own simply one handgun, however, and multiple-gun or rifle safes are where the prices really start rising, with a broad spread - depending on the amount of guns, it can be anywhere from 300-400$ for the lower end to 1K to 3K for the larger/higher-end stuff.

    And as eviemath said, the distribution of guns is not even; I personally, for example, own one handgun, and two rifles in different calibers. It's trivially easy for me to store them. But the people who are "gun people" tend to own amounts of guns that would boggle the mind of someone not accustomed to it. I know people who own 20 guns. I think they're ridiculous, and that most of the time people like that don't even have twenty friends, but it's important to remember that these aren't edge cases but actually really, really common. I strongly doubt this family, for example, had only one gun.

    There are not really good gun storage options, and there's especially not good gun storage options if you have a person of concern in your home and would like to store the firearms outside the home - such as if, for example, your teenager starts presenting with hallucinations about demons. This study discusses the issues with temporary firearm storage - a few gun retailers do it and roughly half of law enforcement agencies in the surveyed states, but the issue of how-temporary-is-temporary and recoverability and liability limit the amount of options. In addition, law enforcement agencies tend to prefer to do so only under court order, or as an option of last resort, due to costs and other issues. And as we know from other situations, it's often very difficult to obtain a court order based on nebulous concerns - meaning people like the ones in this situation may not have another option.

    I think of creating gun storage sites as harm mitigation options, kind of similar to safe-injection sites. Yes, it's easy to say that people shouldn't have unreasonable amounts of firearms, but since we know that they will, how can we take action to make sure that the impact of that on the community is lowered?
    posted by corb at 4:00 PM on July 24 [11 favorites]


    But the people who are "gun people" tend to own amounts of guns that would boggle the mind of someone not accustomed to it.

    Gabriele Galimberti's The Ameriguns project really opened my eyes (tiny arrows below picture to scroll through a gallery).
    posted by Rumple at 4:41 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


    holy fuck - now i don't feel so bad over the amount of cheap synths, guitars, pedals and computers i have - at least i haven't figured out a way to kill people with those ...

    they can only shoot one at a time - at least i can set up signal chains and overdub

    i can even understand having a pistol or two, a shotgun and a couple of rifles for different kinds of hunts - you want the right tool for the job

    but what damn platoon are they planning to arm? this is rather insane
    posted by pyramid termite at 6:38 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


    44 percent of Americans report having a gun in their house.

    But, there is pretty significant variation by state. You've got Rhode Island at 14.8%, and then there is Montana with 66.3%

    This list makes clear that this isn't a neatly Blue State v. Red State issue.

    Worth noting this is based on gun license numbers, so obviously does not include illegally owned firearms.

    Finally, I find the polling data on American views on guns and gun control worth looking over. Most concerning to be is in answer to the question "(Asked of gun owners) Next, please tell me whether you own a gun for each of the following reasons. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?" more people picked "For protection against crime" than "For target shooting" or "For hunting." While in 2005, 67% selected "For protection" in 2021 it was 88%, despite the fact that violent crime in most places has decreased. I do not like where this storyline is headed.
    posted by coffeecat at 7:04 PM on July 24 [5 favorites]


    A (gun) safe does no good if you don't lock it. The crumleys had one.
    posted by clavdivs at 7:36 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


    But my god, your son's in jail for murder and your response is to flee and save your own skin? That's just a terrible thing to do.

    Yeah. I'm not sure they were going to get a lot of local sympathy right after it happened, but grabbing a bunch of money and running did not help (which I guess wasn't as known outside of Michigan?).

    I think of creating gun storage sites as harm mitigation options, kind of similar to safe-injection sites. Yes, it's easy to say that people shouldn't have unreasonable amounts of firearms, but since we know that they will, how can we take action to make sure that the impact of that on the community is lowered?

    I think this probably would be helpful in some instances. But I don't know how you get people to take advantage of help if they refuse to acknowledge there's an issue. The Crumley's had a lot of warning that something was brewing. They claim to have secured the gun: if it has been and option, would they have taken advantage of an off site storage facility?

    And it's not like this is a one off. I live near Highland Park, IL, where the shooter's father helped him get guns. Not immediately prior to the shooting, but definitely after there had been red flags.
    posted by ghost phoneme at 7:59 PM on July 24 [3 favorites]


    Adding to the chorus guns are easy to get, even if the parents had locked up his particular gun. I drove over to my sister's house a few years back and found a gun sitting on the seat of her husband's unlocked truck. I moved it to the glovebox, along with the wallet to see if they would notice, and left again. No one said anything. I'm sure each one of them assumed the other did it.

    For 20 years my parents left multiple guns unlocked, including a loaded rifle propped against the wall and never once locked the door. I never even owned a key growing up, and my dad worked as a contractor and spent weeks and months away from home, and mom was hardly ever home as well. Everyone in the area knew the place was often empty and isolated. Incidentally I was never told not to play with guns, and I was left alone for hours by the age of eight. Days by the time I was a teen. I was warned not to start fires though, weirdly enough. I guess if you lose a kid you make a new one. A house that's been burnt down is a little harder to replace.

    My parents currently live in a populated area and a few years ago mom told me one of my dad's guns was missing. I don't know if he ever reported it.

    A family member adopted a troubled child and in his teens he ran away, broke into someone's basement and was caught headed back to their place with a weapon he found. He later murdered an old woman in an insanely horrific and brutal fashion and is serving life.

    If I wanted a gun I know half a dozen places I could get one easily, if I didn't mind stealing it. Even people who at least lock their houses are easy targets. Pop a window in half the houses in Tennessee or Texas and the guns aren't even in safes, outside of cities. I bet the cop's house behind my folks' place would be a goldmine. Lest you think this is exclusively southern, I knew a guy in Oregon who kept a gun outside a safe in his house (we had one and only one date), and a few in Washington.

    The parents are not the problem. Nothing they did stands out to me as more neglectful than a good number of good liberal people who don't own guns, including people who leave for other domiciles with other partners and leave their kids alone at home. And the nastiness vented at the mother. Would I invite her to a party, even pre-this? No, and I think she was cruel to her son, but no more cruel than what millions of us go through in childhood. She was overwhelmed and she was trying. She was the breadwinner, she repeatedly texted her husband about the kid, she spent time with him. Why the fuck the papers tried to make it about her is the same reason we lost Roe vs. Wade, and the same reason the worst thing you can be these days in the queer community is an old lesbian. The patriarchy is alive and well, friends. She abandoned her kid: "His destiny is done" indeed. But she herself was clearly abandoned and struggling alone long before that. One traumatized life begets another. I can't fucking believe they brought up her sexual history. I am so angry. Nobody believes their family is capable of something like this. Hell, no one would believe their family is capable of sexual assault. She was doing the same thing almost everyone does: sticking her head in the sand.

    Guns need to disappear. It is the only way this is ever going to get better, and that would cause a civil war quicker than the way US citizens are letting millions of truly poor fellow citizens die of disease and starvation and suicide.

    Guns are ridiculously easy to find.
    posted by liminal_shadows at 8:24 PM on July 24 [4 favorites]


    At the same time, not all mental health issues are the same, and we do us all a disservice if we treat them as such. A person experiencing violent hallucinations and delusions, and who has personally expressed fear at their own violent impulses is a very different case from someone experiencing upsetting but nonviolent hallucinations and delusions, and very different from someone experiencing severe chronic depression. Lumping them all under the label "has mental health issues" does a disservice to everyone.

    Thanks biogeo this makes sense to me.

    Maybe I'm struggling with the idea that there isn't really a "normal" when it comes to mental health? I don't trust a lot of the ways various problems are diagnosed. I don't know when a way of being is a symptom of poor mental health, and when it's a perfectly rational response to being in an intolerable situation.
    posted by Zumbador at 9:27 PM on July 24


    Wow. That "Ameriguns" link is amazing. What stands out for me is mostly the affluence - the surroundings and also the clear statement that the guns displayed are part of their wealth and status.
    posted by tiny frying pan at 4:58 AM on July 25 [2 favorites]


    I don't know when a way of being is a symptom of poor mental health, and when it's a perfectly rational response to being in an intolerable situation.

    I don't think those are mutually exclusive. It's common to think of mental health as a totally distinct category from physical health, but it's not, and they have a lot of similarities. Just as you can be in poor physical health because you suffered an injury or an infection, you can also be in poor mental health because of some acute or chronic psychological injury. And just as some people may have long-term physical disabilities due to some cause that is primarily internal to their own bodies, like an autoimmune disorder, so too some people may have long-term mental disabilities that may not have an apparent external cause. And furthermore, sometimes what we experience as the symptoms of physical illness, like fever and sneezing, is actually our bodies' natural and healthy response to fight an infection, but when it happens excessively it becomes dangerous itself; likewise we may have emotional responses that are perfectly healthy ways to react to certain psychological challenges, but in some circumstances may be taken to extremes that can become self-destructive. All of these things are part of a spectrum of health and illness.
    posted by biogeo at 9:58 AM on July 25 [7 favorites]


    I don't agree with charging children as adults. Since I was a teenager I've felt that there should be one age when you're legally an adult for all purposes. (I had to register for the draft before I could buy a beer.) This is arbitrary, kids mature differently, etc., but any age would be arbitrary.
    posted by kirkaracha at 10:42 AM on July 25 [4 favorites]


    That makes sense, biogeo.
    For example how a coping strategy can be ultimately harmful.
    But I was thinking more about how some choices about how to respond to our world can be seen as destructive or self destructive because of biases or ideology.
    Like believing that a person wanting to kill themselves is *by definition* a symptom of poor mental health, when it may be a perfectly rational decision (e.g. If they are terminally ill and suffering).
    Or believing a woman is unwell or deluding herself if she doesn't want children.
    Or when a person lashes out in anger in response to a lifetime of being dehumanised because of poverty or racism, is that rage a symptom of poor mental health?
    posted by Zumbador at 11:53 AM on July 25 [3 favorites]


    Zumbador, those are all valid questions to raise in general on the topic of mental health in the widest sense, but I'm not following how they apply here specifically to a teenager committing a mass shooting, where is the rational decision there?

    Sure, the issue of mass shootings in the US cannot be reduced to an issue of poor mental health only, when the glaring problem is access to guns. But mental health does also play a role and in this specific case it was a kid who was admittedly in severe distress to the point of talking about seeing demons and trying to get his parents to get him help. It's a tragedy they didn't see the mental health crisis unfolding there, as well as it being a tragedy that they gave him such easy access to guns. Don't you think?
    posted by bitteschoen at 12:07 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


    bitteschoen yes, you are correct, I was going on a derail about mental health in general and my comments don't really make sense in this context, where as you say, mental health is very much a part of the story.

    I think that I'm fumbling around to try and express my mistification why recently, and especially in American stories, poor mental health seems to be the go to for so many things.

    Why are there people harassing the parents of children killed in school shootings? Why do people shoot up cinemas? Why do people commit racist, homophobic, or transgender hate crimes? Oh, they must be narcissistic and delusional, have the "dark triad" personality types.

    The explanation doesn't seem to explain.
    posted by Zumbador at 12:31 AM on July 26 [1 favorite]


    "Mental health" is wide enough to encompass social effects, and it's anodyne. So it's what people say when what they really mean is 'well those people are plain crazy.' That way you can blame "mental health" while being opposed to more social services (until it's time for incarceration).
    posted by snuffleupagus at 6:27 AM on July 26 [3 favorites]


    “Mental health issues” sometimes is a stand in for “people not like me.” When I think of people harassing the parents of children who have died in a mass shooting, I want to believe there is something so wrong with them that it’s not understandable, rather than that our educational systems and media and political systems and social contracts are breaking down due to greed for power and money. Because that would make me vulnerable, not just more stable than “those people.” (and I say that as someone who is neurodivergent.)

    And there are cases like that, where someone is not-understandably mentally ill. Eric Harris comes to mind. I read Dylan Klebold’s mother’s book and I found it unsatisfying in part because I kept hitting my own skepticism. Now that I have a teenager, I understand more but also less. I can see how teen behaviour is a bit like boiling a frog - they change gradually, radicalize under your nose. I have a friend going through this with her child - single mom nurse, had to leave kid to his own devices a lot over the pandemic and virtual school. He fell into the toxic incel shit and of course the woman he stopped listening to first is his mum. At the same time, if a teen asks for help it should be like a big alarm going off - things are probably worse than you know.

    I also read this as a story of neglect though, and of extremely bad choices. I think the parents should be charged with neglect and any gun-related charges at the least. I don’t think manslaughter is way off. A lot depends on the parameters. I have relatives who go to church and then to the gun range as a family. I had a good think about what they would have done. They actually do perceive demons a lot, like it is part of their discourse along with concerns around the Rapture. A kid seeing demons is just a very spiritual person. But I think they would have at least sought spiritual guidance based on their child’s distress. I’m not sure it would ever occur to them to take the guns away. I know that is super foreign to those of us who think differently.
    posted by warriorqueen at 8:37 AM on July 26 [5 favorites]


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