Mass School Shootings: Who Is Responsible?

A handyman recently told me that he was estranged from his teenage son because his ex wife agreed to pay half the cost of purchasing an M-15 semiautomatic rifle for the son as a graduation present if his father would pay the other half.

The handyman refused.

I thought of him Tuesday when a 15-year-old sophomore brought a nine-millimeter semiautomatic handgun to Oxford High School and in a matter of minutes had killed four fellow students and injured several more.

Good call on the part of the handyman, I thought.

Why Do Kids Want These Guns?

Then I wondered anew why teenagers want the type of gun used in 2017 in Las Vegas when Stephen Paddock, a 58-year-old gambler, killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds more who were attending a music festival.

Kyle Rittenhouse, then 17, had an AR-15 type semiautomatic rifle in 2020 when he went to Kenosha, Wisc. and ended up killing two people in self defense.

It seems obvious to me that much of the problem lies in America’s culture, which is polluted by violent video games (i.e., Mortal Kombat, Splatterhouse, Grand Theft Auto) and easy access to semiautomatic firearms.

The massive industries that churn out violent video games and semiautomatic firearms are shielded from responsibility for mass shootings by federal and state laws and our court system. But parents are not.

On Friday, the sheriff of Oakland County, Mich., Friday nabbed two parents who were apparently hiding in Detroit after their teenage son went to Oxford High School and fatally shot four fellow students and injured many more. James and Jennifer Crumbley were charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter They had given the teenager the gun as a present.

Protecting Gun Manufacturers

The Crumbleys may be certifiable idiots for buying their teenage son a semiautomatic weapon but are they responsible for his mass shooting? Perhaps. That’s a fact-based question that remains to be answered.

But other possible contributors to the Oxford High School shootings are essentially immunized from liability by state and federal laws.

The Nevada Supreme Court unanimously ruled last week that NV law grants gun manufacturers and distributors immunity from “wrongful death and negligence per se claims.”

The NV court said the family of Carrie Parsons, one of the people killed in the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas, could not sue various gun manufacturers and distributors that made the AR-15 semiautomatic rifles used by Paddock even though they knew the weapons could easily be modified to fire like fully automatic machine guns. Paddock picked off his victims from a high rise hotel room overlooking the concert venue.

Healthline reports that more than 90 percent of kids play video games and more than 90 percent of popular games portray violence, often extreme violence where weapons the size of canons wipe out dozens of people in seconds.

The U.S. Supreme Court in 2011 ruled 7-2 in Brown v. Entertainment Merchants Association that a California law prohibiting the sale or rental of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment.  

You could says parents who allow young children to watch violent video games also are at fault but at some point the line becomes tenuous. When is it reasonably foreseeable that Johnny will grow up, ask Santa for a semiautomatic weapon, and then take that weapon to school and kill people? At birth, to bad parents?

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