The convictions of James Crumbley and his wife, Jennifer, for their roles in their son’s commission of a mass school shooting in Michigan that killed four and injured seven tells us one thing: If you are an irresponsible gun owner, you will pay the price if a crime is committed with your gun.

It is as simple as that. Lock your gun up, keep it away from your children. And if you have a mentally unwell child, keep an even more watchful eye on your firearm. This was not done in the Crumbleys’ case.

The safety of our nation and our schools depends on responsible gun owners doing the right thing and keeping their guns out of the hands of their children. There are far too many mass school shootings because there are far too many mentally unwell students and far too many parents who are careless with their firearms.

[The Crumbleys’ son, 15 at the time he committed the crime at a Michigan high school in November 2021, was sentenced to life in prison without parole in December, CNN reported. His parents each were sentenced Tuesday to 10 to 15 years in prison, weeks after being convicted of manslaughter.]

This is a precedent-setting case, the first time the parents of a school mass shooter have been charged, much less convicted. But the negligence displayed by the Crumbleys went beyond the failure to secure the firearms; it was their profound lapse in judgment despite clear warning signs that their child was troubled.

They may not have given their child the firearms and said to go and commit a heinous crime, but not taking the necessary steps to secure the firearms or get their son the help he clearly needed makes them culpable for his actions, which could’ve been easily avoided if they acted differently.

It’s very possible that lives could have been saved were it not for parents who made excuses for their son’s troubling behavior even though the school took clear steps, including talking to the parents about their child. The Crumbleys missed an opportunity to intervene and potentially prevent a catastrophe.

When a child under the care of adults displays serious mental health issues, those warning signs must not be ignored. Proactive steps and measures should be taken to get those children the help they need to avoid harm not only to others but themselves.

Mental health is a serious problem, but with help you can often save someone. Ignoring the glaring signs of their child’s mental distress while knowing he had access to a weapon in their home certainly makes the Crumbleys liable.

It’s not enough to react to warning signs without taking proactive measures. Mental health issues require serious attention, understanding, and action—within not just families but also educational institutions and health care systems and through legislative measures. The Crumbleys’ oversight is a tragic example of what happens when mental distress signs are ignored or minimized, especially when combined with access to weapons.

The convictions of James and Jennifer Crumbley should set a precedent for parents who ignore the warning signs of their child’s troubling behavior and their responsibility to seek help. It also serves as a sobering reminder of the responsibility that comes with gun ownership and the safe storage of guns around children.

I’m a strong believer in the Second Amendment and do not believe the government should encroach on Americans’ constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms. However, I also believe we must respect the responsibility that comes with this right.

We have seen too many young people commit heinous crimes—smash and grabs, armed robberies in inner cities, suburban kids shooting and killing classmates—and one question I’ve always asked is: Where are the parents? We cannot continue to allow parents to allow their reckless and troubled children to wreak havoc on the rest of society without any consequences.

The trials and convictions of the Crumbleys should serve as a reminder for anyone out there with a troubled child and firearms in the home: Get your child the help he needs and secure those firearms for your safety and that of your child and those around them.


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