Will more states hold parents liable after teen fatally shoots students in Michigan?

Last Tuesday, a shooting broke out at Oxford High School in Oxford, Michigan, which left four students dead. Photo by Adrienne of Oxford/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Another horrific school shooting happened just outside of Detroit last Tuesday. Four high school students were killed. What makes this case different from all the others: The parents of the alleged shooter have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. Both have pleaded not guilty.

These parents helped their son buy the gun, knew he was looking for ammo, were called onto campus to talk about troubling drawings he made, and were told he needed counseling and should be taken home (but didn’t do so). That’s according to Jessica Levinson, professor at Loyola Law School.

“So why are they being charged? … Not because they are just parents who knew they had a troubled teen, [but] because they took a lot of specific actions and frankly failed to take specific actions,” she says.

Prosecutors must show — based on the parents’ awareness and what was reasonably foreseeable — that they acted grossly negligent and allowed all these circumstances to occur.

“We might … see more prosecutors saying if the facts fit … if parents and/or fail to take all of the actions that we see here, then you could be trying to draw that line between what the child does and what the parents might be liable for.”

Meanwhile, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld California’s ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines. It happened on the same day of the Michigan shooting.

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