Emma Redlinger (courtesy thegazette.com)

“Emma Redlinger [above], a freshman at Vinton-Shellsburg High School, was shot in the head inside the West Fourth Street home,” Iowa’s thegazette.com reports. “She died four days later, on Feb. 28, 2015, at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. A statement from Vinton, Iowa police didn’t provide details of how the incident unfolded . . .

[F]ederal documents show that Robyn Merchant, 52, purchased and gave to her son, Dillon Winterroth, 16 at the time, a Walther HK MP5 .22LR semi-automatic rifle the day before Emma was shot.

Was Robyn Merchant irresponsible for buying her 16-year-old son, Dillon Winterroth, a rifle? Ipso facto. Mr. Winterroth handed his firearm to a friend, 17-year-old William Hines, who violated the four gun safety rules, resulting in death. It’s a bit convoluted, but the facts of the matter prove that Ms. Merchant’s decision to arm her son was a fatal mistake.

Especially since Mr. Winterroth was an inveterate pot smoker; he’d been regularly toking-up since the age of 14. According to police reports, Mr. Winterroth and his bud buds were high at the time of the negligent discharge. The cops found seven ounces of herb in his room and related drug paraphernalia

In a police interview, Ms. Merchant admitted knowledge of her son’s marijuana habit. Federal prosecutors have charged Ms. Merchant with a single count of providing a firearm to a prohibited person. The grand jury’s decision is expected any day now.

Meanwhile, it’s worth noting that tens of millions of teenagers who have access to firearms handle and use them responsibly. Yes, but — until they’re adults, their parents/guardians are, at the very least, morally responsible for their safety and, by extension, the safety of those with whom they interact while armed.

Anyone who allows a minor access to a firearm should carefully judge that minor’s ability to be safe and responsible with a firearm. Have they been trained in the four rules? Have they demonstrated safe gun handling? Do they have any anger issues/mental health problems?

Failure to make this assessment — and continue to monitor their child’s gun safety habits and general mental health — is entirely irresponsible. Whether it’s a crime is another matter. Our condolences to Mr. Redlinger’s family.

71 Responses to Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Robyn Merchant [Not Shown]

    • Yea, and starting with a Walther HK MP5 .22LR semi-automatic rifle.

      Any pothead worth his salt should begin his firearms journey with a wood stocked bolt action single shot .22 with iron sights. Not a semi auto machine gun replica with a fake can.

      That wannabe stuff is just asking for trouble.

      • Guns and being high/drunk is a bad combination, dangerous as one does not have full reasoning faculties and often emotions/anger/fear go out of control. As such, as in driving, it should be on the books as a crime if caught legaly drunk with a loaded gun in your hand (many states have no laws against booze and guns, which I feel is crazy)

  1. What can anyone really say about this that has not already been said?
    Until med. records are tied into gun ownership ( a whole nuther can of worms) there will continue to be tragedies like this.
    Even then….it would more than likely not change and the feds would use that against us for other things as well to TRY and take away our guns.
    Unfortunately stupidity, irresponsibility, and ignorance cannot be legislated out and innocent lives lost will be the result.
    Hope mommy thought it was worth it.

    • Wtf would medical records have done to prevent this???

      Nothing!

      Doctors don’t randomly test for Mary Jane. Even so the kid didn’t buy the gun… Another wasteful law hat provides no use and is non effective.
      Classic example all around of how the current laws save no one, natural selection at its finest.
      Dumb people do dumb things. Bad people do bad things. It’s not preventable period.

  2. And the manslaughter charge is only a misdemeanor?

    Time to train people like dogs. The mom, son, and idiot friend who pulled the trigger need to be taken out to the city square and whipped. Not enough to kill, but enough to scar them physically and mentally. The fear reflex will modify their behavior permanently, and the taxpayers won’t have to pay to house them.

  3. Wow, this sucks. I hope the victim’s family finds peace. Again this started with an illegal straw purchase and ended with a lack of 4 rules being followed.

    • This was not really a straw purchase. The only thing that made it illegal was the fact that she knew that her son was a user of an illegal drug. It is legal to buy your 16 year old son a .22 rifle otherwise. Of course, odds are the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, so if that were the case, Ms. Merchant was herself a prohibited person. I guess there’s a reason they call it ‘dope’.

      • While true you can buy a gun for yourself to give as a gift, even for a child. The 16 y/o being a substance user is a prohibited person. That is why I said straw. Either way, irresponsibility all around became a negligent and unfortunate tragedy.

        • “The cops found seven ounces of herb in his room and related drug paraphernalia”

          7 oz.? Hello, possession with intent to distribute.

          Mom may well be charged with “keeping a shop”, or whatever term they use for a “crack house”-type operation…

        • I guess what I would consider disqualifies this as a ‘straw’ purchase is that it was a gift. In my mind a straw purchase is when a one person takes the money from a prohibited person and purchases the firearm with the prohibited person’s money, knowing that the prohibited person couldn’t pass the background check. That said it was certainly stupid to buy her pot head loser son a firearm. Stupid isn’t always criminal, but it was in this case.

        • Gov. William J Le Petomane,

          Actually the ATF definition of a straw purchase doesn’t require that the recipient be a prohibited person. If you purchase a firearm for a person with no criminal record who then immediately pays you for the firearm, the ATF says that is a straw purchase and illegal. Reference the Abramski case out East where the ATF prosecuted a nephew for buying a gun for his uncle — even though neither were prohibited persons, one of them was an active law enforcement officer, and they even transferred the firearm through an FFL since it was an interstate transfer. Not only did that run afoul of the ATF definition, the case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Supreme Court upheld the conviction.

        • Sounds pretty jacked up. I can’t see how a crime could be committed if the transaction was run through an FFL. Otherwise anyone who sells any weapon to anyone is guilty under whatever statute that was used in that case. Not that I’d put it passed the ATF though.

          But I take it a gift is not considered a ‘straw purchase’ by the ATF.

        • Gov. William J Le Petomane,

          You bring up an interesting question: after purchasing a firearm, how long do you have to wait to sell it so that ATF does not consider that a “straw purchase” event? Or does ATF only consider an event a “straw purchase” if the ultimate recipient gives you money before you buy the firearm?

          Yes, you can purchase a firearm for someone else as a gift and give it to them as long as they are not a “prohibited person”. You simply cannot take anything of value from them in exchange for the gift because it would no longer be a true gift.

    • Responsible pot users, just like responsible alcohol drinkers, know that you do not mix use of substances that alter the thought process with guns (or anything potentially dangerous and requiring a sound mind to operate). Whether the substance in question is alcohol, pot or something else is immaterial.

  4. I was 16 when I got my “first gun”. Grandpa gave my dad an old shotgun for me to shoot skeet and take hunting. Shame these kids weren’t better behaved. I feel awful for the girl who lost her life, and for her family. My best friend is my sister, I can’t imagine what they are going through.

  5. Seven ounces of weed?!? That’s a bit more than “regularly toking-up”, what 16yo has $2500 worth of weed lying around? Sounds like mom knew what he was up to and was helping him tool up for protection.

  6. Ok, I have to do this, but promise no more than this one post.

    Why would anyone want to permit a situation where an irresponsible gun owner can destroy the life of an innocent? Unless gun owners are formally trained, receive on-going training, and are proven disciplined, they should not be permitted to have a gun in the first place. Unless, of course, the 500 or so innocent dead each year due to reckless, undisciplined, and negligent gun owners is simply trivia in the big scheme of things. Of course, you won’t let the dead vote on the proposition.

    • 2A,
      If the participants are to be believed in this, the gun owner wasn’t the one who caused the death of this innocent child. It was the idiot friend. (Whether or not the idiot friend is a gun owner or not isn’t known).

    • 2A – you are beginning from a point of fallacy, which is that people should be permitted to do things (presumably via restriction) vs. being punished after the fact for something stupid and, probably in this case, illegal.

      The foundational legal principles under which the US Code was created is very different from that in most of the rest of the world. The Founders created a bedrock document from which all government and laws spring that numbered, at the time, just a few dozen pages. When the EU did the same, their bedrock document was almost 23,000 pages long.

      The fact is – and I am not considering any tragedy “trivial” – that shit happens. It does every day. Sometimes to people who bring it on themselves and sometimes not. I hear you – 500 accidental gun deaths a year. You respond that laws should be changed in order to prevent this. That’s one approach. What laws or permitting schemes should be enacted to reverse the 100,000 people per year killed by mistakes of medical professionals? Laws sometimes just aren’t the answer. More education. Smarter parents. Lots of options.

      Get rid of guns. Sure. That might work. The girl would be alive, you say, at least until she and her friends were blowing some weed and fell off a roof or drove under the influence or hell just burned the house down. Kids smoking dope is ILLEGAL. Yet they did it. The US has spent HUNDREDS of BILLIONS of dollars in the war on drugs. How’s that whole prohibition thing working out? Do you really thing doing the same with firearms would be any different?

      Shit happens. Most of the time to people who do not deserve it. it is sad. But it is also a fact of life. No law, no prohibition would eliminate the chance of that happening. Not even to the 500 accidental firearms deaths per year in a country with 330 MILLION people. Sadly, and I do not say this meanly, but while each of those 500 is a tragedy to the family, that is actually a pretty small number to justify some legal or licensing scheme that would affect 100 MILLION current gun owners that you “hope” might work. Sorry if that sounds callous, but it isn’t. it’s just a fact.

    • Good idea. Maybe then we could send everyone that drives a 2 ton missile to professional driving school so that maybe we can prevent the THOUSANDS of deaths by car accidents.

    • Honestly, people permit other people to do negligent things all the time. Look at driving. People get killed via DUI, street racing and other things like driving high. An estimated 12% of fatal crashes in 2010 involved cannabis. You don’t have someone driving in the car with you constantly to “keep you honest.” It is the price of not living in a totalitarian society.

      Not only that, but if a parent buys their kid alcohol and they commit DUI, they should get charged as an accessory. Kind of like what’s happening here where mom’s looking at a few years in the pokey because she violated laws that said you shouldn’t do stupid things like give a person with a drug habit a gun.

    • “Why would anyone want to permit a situation where an irresponsible CAR owner can destroy the life of an innocent?”

      Would you propose taking away automobiles from everyone because of the actions of a very, very small number of people?

    • Neither the “gun owner” nor his “:idiot friend” bothered to verify the weapon was clear before the “idiot friend” pulled the trigger. The “idiot friend” pulled the trigger with the weapon pointed as to strike the young girl in the head, compounding his idiocy.. So, we need to hold both the “gun owner” and “idiot friend” equally responsible for this senseless ND death. Whomever the Law Enforcement Authorities charge is their business, but we POTG know you always personally verify if a firearm is loaded or not when someone hands it to you. particularly in a casual situation. Both the teen-aged boys and the “gun owner’s” Mother bear responsibility for this young woman’s death and should be held accountable legally and civilly.

  7. Sad story I think we can all agree. One thing I had to point out though was this: “Walther HK MP5 .22LR semi-automatic rifle” – a what?? They may have well just called it an AR-15. Idiots…

  8. It’s a different world today in so many ways. Damn few teens should be allowed unsupervised access to a firearm of any type, even clean and sober they’re just not trained/raised to be responsible and have common sense anymore. No different with cars for that matter. Damn shame, I wouldn’t shed a tear if one of the toker club had been wounded or killed, but of course no, they weren’t that messed up, just an errant shot that took the life of an innocent. By the way, what happened to possessing that much weed being dealer weight with a felony rap?

    • According to the linked article “Winterroth, now 17, possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) with intent to deliver and failure to affix drug tax stamp, both felonies…” as well as some other charges.

      “Failure to affix a drug tax stamp.” Those folks in Iowa do have a sense of humor. Apparently, if you illegally sell an illegal drug, you’re supposed to collect taxes on it. Wonder how that works.

      • You buy a drug tax stamp from the state, five bucks a gram or $750 for *each* plant:

        “SEC. 43. 453B.7 TAX IMPOSED – RATE OF TAX

        An excise tax is imposed on dealers at the following rates:

        1. On each gram of processed marijuana, or each portion of a gram, five dollars.
        2. On each gram or portion of a gram of any taxable substance sold by weight other than marijuana, two hundred fifty dollars.
        3. On each unprocessed marijuana plant, seven hundred fifty dollars.
        4. On each ten dosage units of any taxable substance other than unprocessed marijuana plants that is not sold by weight, or portion thereof, four hundred dollars.

        SEC. 44. 453B.8 PRICE OF STAMPS, LABELS, OR OTHER INDICIA

        Stamps, labels, or other official indicia to be affixed to a taxable substance indicating the payment of the excise tax shall be obtained and purchased from the Department. The dealer shall pay the entire excise tax listed in section 453B.7 at the time of purchase, except as provided in section 453B.13, and receive stamps, labels, or other official indicia for the amount paid. However, the minimum purchase price to be paid for any stamps, labels, or indicia shall be two hundred fifteen dollars.”

        https://tax.iowa.gov/iowa-drug-stamp-tax-law

  9. This is a parental failure. Plain and simple. That a gun was involved is not the important part. When parental control is a thing, we maybe can talk about gun control

    • i have friends in colorado, and they tell me that pot was legalized because pot smokers are too mellowed to harm anyone. i asked if anyone noted that sometimes potheads are so mellow they don’t care about anything. i have a life-sized image in my head of a pothead blowing down the wrong way on a freeway, too buzzed and mellowed to care. too buzzed and mellowed to make a correction.

      • Any mind altering substance can lead to this sort of thing.

        Some are more dangerous than others in that respect (e.g. alcohol is more dangerous than pot). But all are dangerous.

        So you don’t drive, and you don’t handle guns, when you have partaken in either.

  10. I don’t know how many of you realize how much 7 OZ really is in terms of weed. This “kid” and his “friend” we’re moving some serious weight. I’m not sure how you’re not aware your kid is slinging with that much laying around your house. Mom is in on it, and she’s the one who made the straw purchase. (Yes, straw purchase, as in giving a gun to someone committing a felony. Whether or not that should be a felony is a whole other issue.) Depending on quality, that kid,term used loosely) had upwards of $5k street value. Of course he needed the gun.

  11. Its the Gun, the gun maker, the ammunition maker, the NRA, the Congress, and the gun culture that killed this girl. Not irresponsible adults, not stoned pot heads.

    The above is what liberals would say, and are saying. Liberalism never holds the individual accountable for their actions, always some other person, place or thing. And liberals always look to the government to fix or solve their perceived problem.

    It is the mother that is ultimately responsible, and was the beginning of the event chain, as she was the purchaser and source of the gun. But liberals will let her off the hook, and the lawyers will go after whoever has the deepest pockets.

    • Uh, kinda is Gun Culture and the NRA’s fault for this shit.

      Without either, the girl would be alive and Mr. Pothead wouldn’t have been able to stroll into a gunstore with mommy and buy a semi-automatic with little more than a background check.

      It’s going to keep happening unless we start controlling all firearms sales like we do NFA items.

      There will be a sharp decrease in the amount of craziness that happens once every firearm has a stamp and can only be possessed by the listed owner who jumped through flaming hoops to get it.

      But by all means, keep getting uppity and yelling Moran Labia. Because that solves everything!

      • Yeah, just like Honda and Jim Beam are responsible when someone drives drunk and plows into someone right? Critical thinking at its…lowest?

  12. Given the proliferation of guns and pot in Colorado, it is surprising we aren’t hearing a lot of stories involving tragic ND’s of this kind coming out of CO. From what I have been told by people I know in Co, there are many varieties of pot that produce different effects on the user ranging from very, very mellow to highly energized to silly to paranoia and many other places in between. You go into the “pot store” and pick your high…
    Now, criminal dealers are obtaining pot in CO and smuggling it to other States. So, the fact this kid in Iowa had over 7 ozs in his possession may not be too surprising.

    • Proliferation of weed, yes. Guns? How do you figure? We have UBC’s and mag limits remember? Last I checked, Magpul left, and they weren’t even making guns here. There’s a few small time shops that do custom rifle builds, but nobody is pumping out tens of thousands of guns in this state. Everywhere except Ft. Collins, Boulder, and Denver have always been gun places. There’s 5 military installations in my city alone, there’s always been a gun market here.

      Are people running pot of of this state? Absolutely. Can’t stop it. Time to just make it legal nationwide and stop the nonsense.

      • When I said “proliferation of guns’ I simply meant that there are ample gun owners in Colorado, not that the State was producing guns in vast quantities. I know people in Ft. Collins who assure me it is not gun phobic, but THEY say Denver is.
        Anyway, sorry if I misrepresented your State as being more gun prolific than you think it is. I am in California, so you folks look pretty gun friendly and free to me, overall. You may have UBC’s and Magazine limits, but no waiting period on purchase or required State Permit Card to make a gun purchase and Open Carry is permitted as I observed first hand in Ft. Collins when visiting there last year. I am told getting a CCW “just because you want one” is entirely possible and requirements are very reasonable. You all look like paradise by comparison to CA.

  13. My niece went to school with everybody involved, and said the entire group had a reputation for doing drugs and stupid things. It sucks, but it really comes down to parenting…

    • You’re right. I think this blog entry is miscategorized. It should be filed under irresponsible parent of the day, not just irresponsible gun owner of the day.

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