A gun is either on your hip or in a safe. Period. That said, safes do not make children safe from the possibility of a deadly negligent discharge (ND). Rug rats are clever little bastards (they’re your children after all). They have all the time in the world. If they want to breach your security arrangements, they will. A safe is only one layer of defense. Vigilance is another. Education is last but by no means least. You must teach your children what guns can do. How to handle firearms safely. You must replace curiosity with respect. Is a four-year-old too young to learn about gun safety? In this case, reported by pal-item.com, we’ll never know . . .

Last week, Aiden and twin brother Mason were playing in the basement when they found a loaded, .40-caliber semi-automatic Glock handgun in the “office” area where their father, Deputy Greg Mehlbauer, kept his uniforms and other law enforcement equipment.

The boys were handling the gun when it discharged, striking Aiden in the abdomen, Indiana State Police Sgt. Noel Houze said.

Aiden’s mother, Shavonne, was upstairs helping her 6-year-old daughter with her homework and Greg Mehlbauer was on duty when the shooting occurred. Aiden died about 2 hours later at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

My deepest condolences to the Mehlbauer family. I pray that they can find enough healing to move forward, to find some measure of joy and peace in the rest of their journey through life.

The Mehlbauers must somehow come to terms with the fact that this tragedy was preventable. That the mistakes that led to the horror can’t be undone. But Aiden’s death can have meaning to wider society. It can serve as a warning to other gun owners to make sure they store their guns responsibly.

And that is what Franklin County Prosecutor Mel Wilhelm should have focused on. His primary responsibility is to the people of Franklin County, not any one person. The people were not well-served.

Franklin County Prosecutor Mel Wilhelm announced Tuesday through the Indiana State Police that his office would not seek charges in the Feb. 16 accidental shooting death of Aiden Mehlbauer.

Indiana prosecutors often recuse themselves from cases involving local police officers with whom they work on a regular basis, but Wilhelm told the state police the circumstances surrounding the incident did not meet the elements of a crime under Indiana code.

Wilhelm said he had carefully reviewed the state police reports and spoken at length with investigators concerning their findings in the case.

I’m not exactly sure how Wilhelm reads Indiana firearms law, but the relevant bit seems pretty clear to me:

IC35-47-10-6
Dangerous control of a firearm
Sec. 6. An adult who knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly provides a firearm to a child for any purpose other than those described in section 1 of this chapter, with or without remuneration, commits dangerous control of a firearm, a Class C felony. However, the offense is a Class B felony if the adult has a prior conviction under this section.

I know Wilhelm wasn’t the gun owner per se. But Mehlbauer represents the government, which is responsible for putting a gun in his possession. And making sure that the men and women who handle a County-owned weapon do so safely.

I’m NOT saying that Deputy Greg Mehlbauer should serve time or pay a fine for this offense. But he should be charged, as a signal to other gun owners that the state does not tolerate irresponsible gun storage, especially where children are concerned.

Wilhelm’s decision not to press charges also leaves Mehlbauer free to own and carry firearms. Franklin County might remove his gun. But they might not. If a gun owner’s unlawful or reckless behavior leads to the death of an innocent person, they should be stripped of their right to own a gun.

 

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7 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Franklin County Prosecutor Mel Wilhelm

  1. It’s scarey to even think about something like this terrible tragedy happening to someone in my family. ALL the kids in our family are taught about gun safety as soon as possible, and they ALL know to never touch a gun without an adult present. This poor guy will never forgive himself and he will have to relive this horrible death for the rest of his life.

  2. Wilhelm said he had carefully reviewed the state police reports and spoken at length with investigators concerning their findings in the case.

    I think that went something like this:

    Prosecutor Wilhelm, “He’s a cop?”

    Cops, “Yes.”

    Wilhelm, “No charges will be filed.”

    Cops should be held to a higher standard, not a lower one.

  3. Society does not need it’s pound of flesh in this case. I’m happy that Deputy Mehlbauer isn’t going to be prosecuted. He’s already paid a high price for his transgression. Charging him would not serve a useful purpose. A signal to other owners? I think that if losing a child isn’t a signal, nothing would be.

    • I agree and also think the same should apply to all people uniformly. Police shouldn’t be exceptions. If others are prosecuted, so should police.

  4. Too many people just try to keep things from their children these days. People can’t just hide a gun if they have kids around; they need to educate and explain why the child can’t play with it. When growing up I always knew my dad had a loaded .357 in his dresser. I may not have understood what .357 meant at the time but I knew it was a gun and that I was never to touch it without him handing it to me. To this day I don’t handle a gun without first opening the cylinder or dropping the mag and working the slide to clear the chamber.

  5. What do you think the word “provides” means in the phrase “knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly provides a firearm to a child”? Why do you think these facts support the conclusion that Mehlbauer recklessly provided his son with a gun? You even referred to the event as a “negligent discharge (ND).” Are you aware that negligence is a lower legal culpability standard than recklessness, one that cannot generally support criminal liability (and certainly cannot, in this case)?

    Also: You think that Mehlbauer should be charged with a felony but you are “NOT saying that Deputy Greg Mehlbauer should serve time or pay a fine.” What do you think happens when someone is charged with and convicted of a felony? Or are you suggesting that the prosecutor should file the charges and then dismiss them days later (thus wasting prosecutorial and judicial resources)? Or are you suggesting that Mehlbauer clearly wouldn’t be convicted because the charges against him are frivolous? Are you aware that it’s a serious ethical violation for a prosecutor to charge a defendnant with a crime that the prosecutor knows is not supported by probable cause?

    Maybe step back from your soap-box issue and do some more thinking before you start speaking out of your ass about legal issues.

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