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Gun Owners May Regret Not Defending Michigan School Shooting Suspect’s Unsympathetic Parents

It’s hard to defend the parents of Ethan Crumbley, the 15-year-old accused in a deadly shooting spree at Oxford High School in Michigan, but the prosecution of the couple could set a dangerous precedent.

SO WHAT

American gun rights and due process are at stake.

WHY THEY’RE UNSYMPATHETIC

In announcing charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley Friday, Karen McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor, said they bought the semiautomatic handgun used to carry out the deadly rampage for Ethan as an early Christmas present and left it unlocked in a bedroom drawer.

A day before the shooting, a teacher saw Ethan searching online for ammunition for the gun in class, which led to a meeting with school officials, according to McDonald.

  • After being informed by the school about their son’s behavior, Jennifer Crumbley texted her son: “LOL, I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught,” McDonald said.

On the day of the shooting, James and Jennifer Crumbley were called into the high school after one of their son’s teachers found a note he had drawn, scrawled with images of a gun, a person who had been shot and a laughing emoji, and the words, “Blood everywhere,” and, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me,” per McDonald.

  • School officials instructed the parents to take Ethan home and seek counseling for him, but the couple refused, and Ethan was sent back to class, McDonald said and Tim Throne, the Oxford school district superintendent confirmed.
  • Jennifer Crumbley texted her son shortly after the shooting, saying, “Ethan, don’t do it,” McDonald said.

On Saturday afternoon, Oakland County police arrested the parents in an art studio in a warehouse in Detroit following an intense manhunt for them.

WHY IT MATTERS

James and Jennifer Crumbley were arraigned Saturday on charges of involuntary manslaughter in the fatal shootings of four high school students, whom police say were gunned down by Ethan Crumbley.

Experts have said that the prosecution of the parents was unusual if not unheard of in high-profile mass shootings by minors.

  • MSNBC legal analyst Danny Cevallos expressed hope Sunday that “this may be part for prosecutors who may want to hold parents closer to automatically liable for what their kids do.”
  • While conservatives and gun rights advocates have so far kept mostly quiet, attorney Andrew Branca suggested to Fox News host Laura Ingraham Monday that the charges were “politically motivated” and “without evidence.”

National Review’s Andrew McCarthy, a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, similarly accused McDonald of overreaching, calling the case against James and Jennifer Crumbley “untenable.”

  • “There is much to criticize in the Crumbleys’ actions and omissions in the lead-up to their being criminally charged. That does not necessarily mean criminal charges — as opposed to significant civil lawsuits — are appropriate,” he wrote Saturday.
  • McCarthy noted that Michigan has declined to follow several others states in making it a crime for adults to allow children unsupervised access to firearms.
  • Nor is there a legal requirement for a gun to be locked up, he said, adding, “if such a law were enacted it would face stiff constitutional challenges.”

McCarthy also argued, on Monday, that James and Jennifer Crumbley’s alleged flight to Detroit is not evidence of “consciousness of guilt,” which could be used against them at trial.

  • “Sometimes, acting guilty does not mean that you are guilty — or even that you believe you are guilty,” he wrote.

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