Can parents be held liable for recklessly storing guns?

Morning In America

OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. (NewsNation Now) — The parents of an alleged school shooter are facing involuntary manslaughter charges in connection to the Michigan shooting that left four people dead and injured seven others.

Jennifer and James Crumbley were charged last week with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. Under Michigan law, an involuntary manslaughter charge can be pursued if prosecutors believe someone contributed to a situation where harm or death was high. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison.

Ethan Crumbley was also charged as an adult with two dozen crimes, including murder, attempted murder and terrorism, for the shooting at Oxford High School in Oakland County, roughly 30 miles north of Detroit.

“They’re both facing four counts of manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, the basis of that is essentially really gross negligence,” said defense attorney Matt Fakhoury on “Morning in America.” “What they’re saying is any actions or inactions or omissions, even with Ethan with the school, anything that they did or did not do, is really showing that they were grossly negligent. And because of their negligence, that they should have known Ethan was a possible threat, that caused the death of these young men and women at the school.”

Over a third of children could get their hands on a gun inside their home in less than five minutes, despite their parents claiming otherwise, according to a Giffords Law Center study.

In over 30 states, parents could be held liable for that ease of access. Each state’s law differs in liability and penalties, but all are designed to hold parents accountable for negligently storing a firearm. Notably, Michigan is not on this list.

Instead, the prosecutor in this case will be using involuntary manslaughter charges which were successful in a recent case in neighboring Wayne County.

In that case, a man’s 9-year-old son was fatally shot by his 10-year-old daughter with a gun in a readily accessible location of the home. The father was charged with several crimes including involuntary manslaughter. He was found guilty and all of those charges were upheld on appeal

Notably, Michigan does provide criminal liability for the parent of a child who violates a firearm law on school grounds, if the parent knew the child would commit the crime or assisted with the crime.

The Oakland County prosecutor has not mentioned utilizing this law yet in a case against the Crumbleys.

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