More information has come out concerning the weapon used in the shooting at Great Mills High School in Maryland. According to a report from the Baltimore Sun, the handgun, a Glock 9mm, was brought from the high school shooter’s home. Law enforcement officials were able to confirm that the weapon legally belongs to the student’s father.
Under Maryland law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to be in possession of a handgun and for a loaded firearm to be accessible to anyone younger than 16 if they are “unsupervised.” However, the latter would not apply as the shooter was 17-years-old.
Jen Pauliukonis, president of the group Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence, said the case highlights the issue of child access to firearms. She pointed to a 2004 report from the U.S. Secret Service and Department of Education that found that 68 percent of school shooters used a gun from their own home or a relative’s home.
Maryland law prohibits a person from leaving a loaded firearm somewhere that the person knew or should have known that an unsupervised child under age 16 could gain access to it. Violators face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $1,000.
The fact that 68 percent of school shooters were found to have used a gun from their home is problematic. Tom wrote a piece earlier that touched on this very issue. A high school student in Michigan told his parents that he was planning to carry out a mass shooting at his school because of bullies. The young student said he intended to use his grandfather’s guns to carry out the attack.
One can assume that most parents do not think that their kid is capable of doing something as horrific as carrying out a school shooting. They may not feel the need to lock up their firearms. After all, their kid is a good kid. If a parent trusts their child, it would never cross their mind that their kid would take a gun to their school with the intention to harm others. In the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012, the shooter who took the lives of 27 people, including his mother, used a semi-automatic rifle that legally belonged to his mother to carry out his attack. While the shooter’s mother knew he had a mental illness, it never crossed her mind to prevent him from getting his hands on her weapons. In fact, she would take him shooting.
Parent negligence does not justify new gun control measures or a gun ban in any way. But these cases do suggest that parents should take steps to secure firearms when kids are in the home. In another shooting, that was entirely preventable, a nine-year-old shot and killed his sister over a video game controller. This should never happen. Ever.
Parents must be encouraged to lock away weapons that are not in their control or put them in a place where only they know where they are. Parents should also focus on teaching their kids the importance of gun safety. Tom has written on a few children’s books that do just that. A good education on gun safety and keeping these weapons out of the reach of younger people living in the house is a smart way to prevent these types of shootings. However, they are still not full proof. Kids are sneaky and know how to find passwords or codes for locks.
For gun owners, if one of their firearms were to go missing from home, it should be immediately noticeable. Maybe gun owners need to get into the habit of checking on the status of their firearms regularly.
While the blame rests entirely on the shooter, imagine if the father of the Great Mills High School shooter noticed his gun was missing. Panic, of course, would set in but he might have been able to put two and two together before it was too late.
There are ways to prevent mass shootings that do not require more gun control or new laws. Most of it involves following basic safety rules.