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Jewish World ReviewMarch 8, 2000/ 31 Adar 1, 5760

Kathleen Parker

Kathleen Parker
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Consumer Reports



After this school
shooting, no easy target
for our contempt --
ANOTHER SHOOTING, another child dead, another round of debate. This time, the age and innocence of both victim and shooter push the limits of rational thought.

Unlike in previous school shootings, all too familiar now, there's no easy target for our contempt. No cult to despise, no black trench coat to repel, no pattern of weird behavior to suggest that we should have known. Just two little kids caught in the crosshairs of an accidental moment.

One of them, Kayla Rolland, 6, is dead. The other, a 6-year-old boy whose name had not been released at this writing, is in the custody of a relative.

The tragedy Tuesday at Buell Elementary School near Flint, Mich., poses more questions than answers. Foremost, where does one place blame? Can we blame a first-grader who comes to school with a loaded gun he found under blankets in a bedrom of his home? Can we blame a school for not checking the book bags of children just four years out of diapers? Can we blame parents for not being good enough parents?

You bet we can blame parents, and we should. We also should blame anyone who opposes the simplest of precautions against such tragedies, such as child safety locks on handguns. Locks aren't a cure, but they're a least-we-can-do to protect children from the adults who pretend to be their parents.

I realize that the world is full of slobs and that most of them are engaged in procreation. There's not much we can do about that fact, absent a dictatorship and parental licensing, an increasingly attractive option -- as long as I get to be dictator.

But there is something we can do about parents who refuse to behave responsibly and to take charge of their progeny.

Early reports suggested that the shooter was himself a victim, the offspring of a chaotic home and drug culture. He lived in a ``flophouse" with his mother, a man known as an uncle and a younger sibling. The gun he brought to school had been reported stolen in December. Investigators also found a stolen 12-gauge shotgun in the boy's home.

So these are not the Cleavers or the Huxtables or even the Simpsons. A product of such a home is almost predictably going to wind up on a rap sheet one of these days. Better he should steal a car at 16 than kill a classmate at 6.

But there you have it. No amount of understanding, compassion or empathy is going to bring peace to Kayla's parents or to the millions of others who rightfully fear sending their children to school. The time for punitive action against parents is overdue. Someone has to step up to the plate and be accountable for this child sacrifice.

Prosecutors say they'll seek involuntary manslaughter charges against the man they say once had the gun.

Any adult who leaves a weapon around for a young child to take to school is negligent, no yes-buts. Adults may not be able to prevent older children from procuring firearms, either through theft or purchase (Columbine killers Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris come to mind), but a half-witted monkey can keep a pistol from a 6-year-old. If you have guns, lock them up.

When someone dies because you didn't properly tend to home and child, you bear a responsibility. Case closed, as the saying goes.

Regardless of how the judicial system resolves the issue of culpability in this case, we can immediately insist on child safety locks for all firearms, especially handguns. To accept anything less is irresponsible and a crime against common sense for which we all share blame.

JWR contributor Kathleen Parker can be reached by clicking here.


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