CapArms Question of the Day: Should Parents Be Jailed When Kids Kill?

“I see no purpose in punishing this family any further.” That’s District Attorney J. Bradley Smith pronouncement after Wendy Brock and Roger White Jr. watched their son climb into their truck (which they were washing in the drive), retrieve his father’s handgun and shoot himself.

It’s part of a large usatoday.com article entitled Added agony: Justice is haphazard after kids’ gun deaths. The McPaper’s post raises an important question: do laws punishing adults for negligence when children misuse unsecured firearms serve any practical purpose?

Every state has laws against parental neglect. Aren’t those enough? And even if they aren’t, don’t so-called “child access prevention laws” put us an unconstitutional slippery slope towards greater gun control?

comments

  1. avatar FedUp says:

    What?

    No home storage laws in Oregon or New York, but a solid band of laws stretching from Florida to Minnesota, plus Texas and Oklahoma?

    1. avatar General Mills says:

      Absolutely! *

      * if they are at fault.

  2. avatar Batterycap says:

    The answer is as always – it depends. True accidents are just that. They are tragic. They are heart breaking. They will never be gotten passed. No further punishment can exceed that which the family will place on itself.

    For the ignorant idiots that give a small framed girl a large caliber pistol to shoot so they can shoot what there are sure will be a funny video, and the girl is killed – there isn’t a long enough prison sentence for this level of dumbness.

  3. avatar Mr.Savage says:

    teach your kids, I mean really DRILL IT INTO THEIR HEADS!!! if my three year old will come and get me ANY time she sees any gun where it shouldn’t be, and tells me I need to put it away, what’s your excuse? Maybe you haven’t started them shooting? mine started, with her own rifle at 2.5 years old, and can now fully operate a bolt action single shot, as well as my 10/22, and she has fired full 30rd mags from my AR. she truly does know the meaning of ONLY IF DADDY GIVES YOU PERMISSION, and yes, I’ve tested her, leaving an opened and clear .45 on the kitchen table, she never gets within 5 feet before getting me to put it away. maybe my kids just mean more to me than some?

  4. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    anyone who leaves rope just laying around in the open should be punished.
    my nephew hung himself. so far i’ve been able to avoid incarceration.
    i helped a work peer of eight years secure a revolver for city protection, or so he convinced me. i don’t feel responsible for him being gone.

    or do i? nah…

  5. avatar John in TX (Was CT) says:

    I think “Should we really spend millions of dollars on a trial followed by $50k/year to house these idiots when it won’t increase the amount of sorrow they feel over their mistakes by any significant margin” is a valid question.

    So, of course, is “If we put their heads on a pike, will it dissuade future parents from doing dumb shit?”, though.

    It would REALLY suck to be in the docket when the DA/judge decides he needs to make an example out of someone.

  6. avatar Mike Betts says:

    Few things infuriate me more than people who are irresponsible with their firearms. Aside from the damage their negligence inflicts upon themselves and their families, the gun-grabbers latch onto the incidents like a terrier with a rat and far too often the end result is stupid laws which infringe on POTG who ARE responsible.

  7. avatar Noishkel says:

    Absolutely not. Not unless there is a clear evidence of direct negligence that resulted in that death. Which may include a parent screwing up. But it does not give any government free play to invent a new class of crime just because this latest leftist moral outrage. We already have laws on the books for negligent homicide. Simply apply that law when you have to.

  8. avatar David N says:

    That would be corruption of blood. Against the Constitution.

  9. avatar NorincoJay says:

    Negligence laws are good enough. It’s impossible to stop everything bad from happening especially in a free country. Freedom in and of itself is dangerous. We could lock all kids up in rubber rooms too?

    The article linked states 152 children have died from child accidental shootings in a three year period 2014, 2015 and 2016. In a country of 325 million and just as many guns I have to say I’m proud of our country and armed citizens for doing a very good job limiting these terrible tragedies.

    In the grand scheme of things killing our children this just isn’t worth a lot of time.

    http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2010/06/with_300_children_drowning_in.html

    I’m going to say it again fences save lives. Summer is coming watch kids around the water.

    1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      Fences around pools are great and I’m in favor of them. Drownings can happen at the beach and the lake, too, so more is needed.

      Learn CPR. Be sure to have enough life vests for everyone on the boat. Make kids wear theirs. Avoid the booze. If you’d freak out yo see a lifeguard guzzling a forty, then it should freak you out to be drinking, too, when you’re your kids’ lifeguard.

      Know your own swimming limits. Often, one drowning begets another as an hysterical, over confident, under prepared would-be rescuer dives in and dies, too.

      1. avatar Katy says:

        Echoing that, lifeguards are a lot like the cops. Even if they are there, it is to serve and protect a large bunch of folks. You are your children’s lifeguard and have to take responsibility.

        The number of parents I see each year at pools, lakes, and the beach who let their kids wander off without even half an eye is astounding and a small testament to how fortunate we are everyday.

  10. avatar Floyd says:

    Punishing pure stupidity as a crime is very satisfying for some situations, but not this one.

    Maybe if you leave your guns out and your kid hurts themselves or someone else, you should lose the guns.

    All rights come with responsibilities and everyone is presumed to know that until it is proven they don’t.

  11. avatar George in RI says:

    Agree strongly with prosecutorial discretion in cases like this. They will pay for this every day for the rest of their lives. If someone else’s child gets killed/injured as a result, then all bets are off and throw the book at em. Stuff like this should never happen.

    1. avatar Jonathan - Houston says:

      “They will pay for this every day for the rest of their lives.”

      Will they? Maybe, maybe not. Some parents don’t care about their kids. Some parents savagely beat their kids or starve them or molest them or kill them. Some have no idea, I mean literally, no idea whatsoever, where their kids are right this second, and still won’t at 2:00 a.m. tonight.

      I don’t know what personal anguish any given someone might have over the loss of a child, especially if they were grossly negligent and contributed to the death. I’m far more confident that such a person will regret being sent to prison, though.

      1. avatar George in RI says:

        And that’s the beauty of the “discretion” part of prosecutorial discretion. It would be pretty obvious which parents love their kids in the aftermath of such a horrible event. Putting them in prison also costs tax dollars and makes it harder for them to commit suicide.

  12. avatar Chip in Florida says:

    “…Every state has laws against parental neglect.”

    This is my question, and one I keep asking over and over again that few can answer….. If there is already a law installed against parental neglect, why would we need a second law regarding parental neglect involving firearms? How does the presence of a firearm increase or decrease the level of neglect?

    There is also the issue of unintended consequences regarding the ‘extra’ laws. A child is killed with a firearm and the story is terrible and tugs at all the heart strings (and the anti’s start drooling at the opportunity to control). The parents are already legally in trouble regarding Parental Neglect (or Child Endangerment, what your state calls it may vary) OR they could be in trouble for whatever your state calls Child Access to a Firearm. So which law are they going to be charged with? And the lawyer can make a plea deal from one to the other to get a lesser fine or sentence. And one the plea deal has been made, the lesser charge may have lesser standards in court meaning a greater chance of the parent being found not-guilty. So instead of increasing the threat of legal action in these kinds of cases as a kind of deterrent, the exact opposite happens when it’s found out that you can make a plea deal to get a reduced/eliminated penalty.

  13. avatar Ollie says:

    Negligent parents in firearms abuse cases involving a family member victim should forfeit the right to possess firearms.in return for no prosecution,. They are NOT qualified to possess a weapon.

    If the victim is not immediate family, the the parents should be prosecuted, particularly in gang member juvenile violence.

  14. avatar Shire-man says:

    I had to look up NH’s law:

    Any person who stores or leaves on premises under that
    person’s control a loaded firearm, and who knows or reasonably should know
    that a child is likely to gain access to
    the firearm without the permission of the
    child’s parent or guardian, is guilty of a violation if a child gains access to a
    firearm and:
    (a) The firearm is used in a reckless or threatening manner;
    (b) The firearm is used during the commiss
    ion of any misdemeanor or
    felony; or
    (c) The firearm is negligently or recklessly discharged.</blockquote

    Followed by a ton of exceptions which means they won't come after you unless you're grossly negligent like tossing loaded guns onto a playground or something. Even then it's a max of $1,000 fine.

  15. avatar Jon in CO says:

    I’m unaware of any in CO, unless there’s a subsection in criminal stuff that says the parent can be held liable or something. There is no mandatory lock box or any such thing here.

    1. avatar Katy says:

      Most laws won’t be of the lockbox variety. It is leaving it in a location the the ordinary reasonable person would expect a child to encounter it. And even then, only punishing if there is some subsequent misuse of said weapon.

      People tend to think child law = mandatory safe, which is too bad. I think both sides would be amenable to the aforementioned standard spreading nationwide. At it’s most basic, it’s an idiot law that only punishes the least attentive among us.

  16. avatar clst1 says:

    In Oklahoma the above case would most likely fall under the Child Neglect statutes rather than child access to a firearm.
    “In Oklahoma:
    It shall be unlawful for any parent or guardian to intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly permit his or her child to possess any [firearm]…if such parent is aware of a substantial risk that the child will use the weapon to commit a criminal offense or if the child has either been adjudicated a delinquent or has been convicted as an adult for any criminal offense that contains as an element the threat or use of physical force against the person of another.”

    “A “child” is defined as a person under 18 years of age.
    Oklahoma law also specifically penalizes any parent or guardian of a child under age 18 whose child commits the crime of possession of a firearm on school property.”

  17. avatar Hank says:

    Well for starters jail really doesn’t deter crime anymore, in most places. So maybe a good old fashioned public caning, from a stern, hard nosed, stiff upper lip, old man would set the kids and their parents straight.

  18. avatar EJQ says:

    I was looking through some laws regarding children and safe gun storage here in Texas. There’s either a city ordinance or state law, can’t remember which, specifically stating that a minor can’t have a gun in his/her bedroom until the age of 16 or 17. My son was 18 at the time, and had stored his unloaded rifle in his closet since he was 15. Oopsies. Rifle ammo was not kept at the house, until he was older.

    Also, if I give him a book of matches and ask him to light candles on a birthday cake, he prefers the kind of long lighter we have to light the pilot lights if the water heater or gas stove needs a light. Seems we also taught him not to play with matches. I’m not sure if he’ll ever get used to using a regular match. Some day, maybe.

  19. avatar Hannibal says:

    Given the unacceptable amount of kids killed in these incidents- that amount being over 0- I am fully in favor of parents being punished if they are at fault for unsafe storage that leads to a child being injured or killed. Think that no amount of punishment can matter after losing a child? Maybe- let’s test it. Because apparently they didn’t care enough about their kid in the first place.

    And I see it here all the time. “I don’t need to put my guns in a safe because I TEACH my kids about guns.” Fine. Then you don’t have to worry, because nothing will happen, right? But if you’re wrong, go to jail. That way you’re betting something in addition to your kids lives on your belief that kids never do something dumb.

  20. avatar Rick in NH says:

    Overlay this map with USA Today’s map of youth shootings at https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2017/05/24/justice-haphazard-when-kids-die-in-gun-accidents/101568654/?siteID=je6NUbpObpQ-fv7X6PO.V9XkLFdkxrKlCg

    My reading is that all the laws won’t prevent accidental shootings. Don’t be stupid. Train your children about guns.

  21. avatar SurfGW says:

    YES! Teach parents responsibility! A gun in safe is safe; a gun out of safe is unsafe.

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