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How Arresting Ethan Crumbley’s Parents Sends A Powerful Message To Gun Owners

Photo: Oakland County Sherriff Department
Ethan Crumbley, Jennifer Crumbley, James Crumbley

There is, perhaps, no greater failure that a country can endure than failing its children.

It’s time to stop looking at events like the Oxford High School shooting as unavoidable, unfortunate tragedies and begin looking at them for what they really are.

School shootings are not simply tragedies of children, they are failures of adults, and the apprehension of the Crumbley parents may set a new precedent that the adults who allow these tragedies to happen may finally face real consequences.

The arrest of Ethan Crumbley's parents is a message for all gun owners.

Ethan Crumbley is the accused shooter in the Oxford High School shooting that killed four and injured seven on November 20th, 2021.

RELATED: Ethan Crumbley’s Neighbor Says She Warned Child Protective Services About His Parents Before Shooting

Crumbley was arrested and charged with four counts of first-degree murder among other charges which notably include a count of terrorism causing death.

Crumbley isn’t the only person that has been arrested in connection to the shooting. 

In a very uncommon move, the prosecution has charged Ethan Crumbley’s parents with four counts each of involuntary manslaughter in connection to the Oxford High School Shooting.

Typically the parents of school shooters, even when they are the owners or in some way responsible for the weapon that is used in the shooting, do not ever face any legal consequences.

On the topic of the charges that are being leveled against Jennifer and James Crumbley, the prosecutor Karen McDonald had this to say, “I couldn’t even imagine not holding those two people responsible. They bought a weapon for their son and had every reason to believe, at least the day before and certainly the morning of, that he was very likely going to commit a violent act, and they did nothing"

"They allowed him to go back to class and walked out of that building and never once thought or cared enough to say to a school official or anyone else, ‘our son has a gun.’”

The Crumbley parents are now being held on a $500,000 bond each after their arrest, but it remains to be seen whether or not the charges that are being brought against them will stick.

It is abnormal for the parents of a school shooter to be held accountable in connection to a shooting committed by their child but the arrest of the Crumbley parents could set a new precedent about gun ownership and children’s access to weapons.

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The prosecution is alleging that the Crumbley parents bear some of the responsibility for Ethan Crumbley’s alleged actions given their gross negligence. 

Their argument will likely be a divisive one, if you bring a gun around your child and into your home are you then responsible for everything that is done with that gun? 

If Jennifer and James Crumbley are found guilty of their involuntary manslaughter charges, then that could change conversations around gun rights and responsible gun ownership by putting the responsibility of gun violence partially on the owners of the weapons rather than solely on the perpetrators of the violence.

It was the decisions of Jennifer and James Crumbley to give Ethan the capacity to kill and maim en masse that turned Ethan’s violent inclinations into a deadly reality for the students and faculty of Oxford High School.

Jennifer and James Crumbley allegedly fled the police, leading to a manhunt for the parents of the alleged school shooter.

Lawyers for the parents have since claimed that Jennifer and James Crumbley had intended to turn themselves in. Detroit Police Chief James White said of the couple’s behavior that he didn’t know what they might have intended but, “this isn't indicative of turning themselves in, hiding in a warehouse.”

The sheer lack of accountability taken by the parents both before and after the shooting only further emphasizes the need to reframe school shootings as a result of negligence. 

This is not to say that all parents are responsible for the criminal acts of their children but, in the case of Ethan Crumbley, repeatedly ignoring clear warning signs and continue to provide a child with a deadly could be a clear act of negligence by his parents. 

In a nation obsession with guns but utterly disinterested in the preventing the consequences of this obsession, the charges against James and Jennifer Crumbley could change the tide in how we tackle gun violence in US schools.

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Dan O'Reilly is a writer who covers news, politics, and social justice. Follow him on Twitter.