Tragedy struck Sparks, Nevada on Monday morning when a student opened fire at a middle school. A 12-year-old student at Sparks Middle School shot and killed a teacher and wounded two classmates before turning the gun on himself. The boy’s parents may face charges, if it is determined that the gun used in the shooting came from their home.
A Ruger 9mm semi-automatic handgun was used in the shooting. Authorities suspect the gun came from the boy’s home, but are still investigating the matter. Sparks deputy police chief Tom Miller said that if the gun did come from the parents’ home, it will fall to a local prosecutor to decide whether to press charges. Miller said “the potential is there,” but was quick to point out that the parents of the boy were “fully” cooperating with police.
Nevada is one of twelve states that has a Child Access Prevention (CAP) law, which “prohibits only intentional, knowing, or reckless provision of firearms to minors.” Even if the boy’s parents don’t face criminal charges as a result of the shooting, they could face civil lawsuits, if the gun is determined to be theirs.
“It’s a fairly straightforward civil liability case that a parent can be held liable for failing to adequately secure a gun away from a young person, and there have been a number of civil suits over the years, and a number of reported cases around the country of holding gun owners to the highest degree of care in securing their weapons,” says Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Should the parents have locked the gun away so the boy didn’t have access to it? Absolutely. That’s an action any sensible gun owner should take. And I’m sure the parents are tortured by that very thought right now, as they deal with their grief at losing a child and their undoubted horror at the destruction he caused.
But singling them out for punishment is pointless. It’s taking the easy way out.
So far, police say they haven’t uncovered a motive for the shooting, but some students who were interviewed say the seventh-grader was bullied. Faith Ebans, a student who had a class with the shooter, said she believed he was made fun of at school.
“I saw kids pushing him around and doing a lot of mean things to him,” she said. “I guess one day he got tripped and my friends said, ‘Trip them back,'” Ebans said. “But I guess he just decided just to shoot them.”
Watch an interview where another students says the Sparks shooter was bullied:
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