Parents Who Arm Troubled Kids Finally Face Justice

Parents Who Arm Troubled Kids Finally Face Justice

Jennifer Crumbley enters court for sentencing in Pontiac, Michigan on February 6, 2024

Photo by Mandi Wright via Reuters

Her blank face in court spoke volumes. Jennifer Crumbley saw no problem handing her severely depressed 15-year-old a semiautomatic handgun as a Christmas present. Ethan soon after turned the gun on the student body of Oxford High, killing four.

What makes this case both chilling and sickening is that Ethan had telegraphed his rapid unravelling, and his mother ignored it. He told her there was a demon in the house. He sent her desperate text messages that she did not address: Jennifer was reportedly off tending to her horses and a secretive six-month affair.

The school called in both parents to discuss a violent drawing Ethan had made in math class. It showed a bleeding person and a gun and the words "blood everywhere" and "the thoughts won't stop" and "help me" on a math sheet.

The parents failed to tell the school he had a gun. And they refused to take him home. They had jobs, you know.

When the school told the parents that Ethan was found searching online for ammunition, Jennifer sent her boy a supportive text. It read: "LOL (laughing out loud), I'm not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught."

Jennifer failed to impress the jury with praise of her parenting skills and her sweet descriptions of family Thanksgiving dinners. She blamed Ethan's father for not properly storing the weapon, but that also didn't get her off the hook.

Jennifer was convicted on four counts of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison. Her husband will soon be tried.

What is going on? Americans have always owned guns for hunting, sport or self-defense. But today's politicized gun mania has turned deadly firearms into toys for children or fashion accessories.

There was that famous case of the 6-year-old who shot his elementary school teacher in Newport News, Virginia. His mother was sentenced to two years in prison for child neglect. How on earth did a first grader get access to a loaded gun? It was lying around the house.

The gun obsession played a part in the horrific 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that left 27 innocents dead. The killer's divorced mother, Nancy Lanza, would go to bars at night bragging to the guys about her guns. Despite son Adam's history of serious mental illness, she left the firearms strewn around their house. Today a jury probably would have locked her up and thrown away the key — had Adam not murdered her first.

Other lonely women have been known to seek company by making common cause with the male-dominated gun fixation. In Oregon, Laurel Harper participated in gun forums, alternating her topics between descriptions of her son's mental illness and her gun collection.

She probably expected pats on the head when she told the fellas, "I keep two full mags in my Glock case. And the ARs and AKs (semiautomatics) all have loaded mags." Wildly clueless, she criticized "lame states" that put limits on loaded firearms in the home.

Her son Christopher Harper-Mercer had been involuntarily hospitalized for psychiatric treatment. He brought six guns to Umpqua Community College in Roseburg and slaughtered 10 people. After the massacre, Laurel told detectives that Christopher was "mad at the world."

Are parents who keep unsecured loaded weapons in homes shared with disturbed or very young children themselves mentally off? The argument can be made. But if police removed arms from adults without criminal records, the gun lobby would go crazy.

Legal experts see the Crumbley case as the first to directly hold parents culpable for giving a child who turns guns on others access to weapons. But where did these parents come from?

Reprinted with permission from Creators.

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