Oxford High School shooting sheds light on parental responsibility


Photo by Christina Mazza

Students march with posters supporting gun control.

Livia Venditti, Opinions Writer

Madisyn Baldwin, 17; Tate Myre, 16; Hana St. Juliana, 14; and Justin Shilling, 17 are the four victims of the Oxford, Michigan school shooting on Nov. 30. The headlines that have been plastered over every newspaper in our country are disturbing, heartbreaking and painful but unfortunately not unfamiliar. The recent Oxford shooting is yet another in the grotesque pattern of school-related, and preventable, gun violence in America. 

Undoubtedly, a factor is accessibility to guns in our country. Gun culture in America is extremely controversial, but this polarization is based on carelessness and ignorance. Americans on either side of the aisle should stand for protecting lives over weapons. No so-called “advanced” country allows such bloodshed in our streets, our homes and our schools. 

Around 4.6 million American children live within reach of a fire-ready gun and according to a 2015 study, 1 in 5 gun-owning households with children under 18 had at least one weapon loaded and unlocked. These are just some of many examples of the failure to protect children and those around them. 

The constant and nonchalant attitude towards access to guns has deadly consequences especially for children, who lack proper training and awareness of their true dangers. Hiding behind claims of freedom and protection is cowardly, and disrespectful to those who have lost their lives to unnecessary and preventable gun violence.  

Only 11 states have laws for safe storage legislation and securing weapons in households with children, Michigan excluded from the small yet powerful law. The gun used in this shooting was not only within reach of the 15-year-old shooter, but essentially handed to him. According to AP News, The father provided the semiautomatic pistol used in the shooting to his son four days before the shooting as a gift, which was kept in an unlocked drawer of a bedroom. A day before the shooting, the suspect was caught at school searching for ammunition on his phone. His mother’s response over text was, “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.” The irreversible damage of this shooting had completely reversible actions. If his mother had responded differently–had decided to administer actual, tangible consequences rather than soft and weak-willed words–the bright futures of four students would still exist.

The profile of a school shooter is incredibly repetitive: a white, male student usually consumed with violent thoughts. According to The Violence Project, over 80 percent of mass shooters were in a noticeable crisis prior to their shooting. The recent events did not stray from the pattern as the Tuesday morning of the tragedy the suspect had drawn a picture of a gun pointing at the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.” His parents resisted counseling and administrators let him remain at school with the gun in his backpack that would later be used to fatally kill 4 students and injure 8 others. This attitude of dismissing obvious warning signs, however, is not uncommon. Displays of violence in children are often swept under a rug and action is not taken. Yet in this case and many others, some support and a few words could have easily stopped another school from becoming a warzone. 

However, there is a groundbreaking difference in this case: the suspect’s parents have been charged with involuntary manslaughter. This decision does not come without controversy but is the right step in holding more people responsible for cultivating an environment in which a troubled teen prone to violent thoughts can access, carry and use a deadly weapon. 

Even something as simple as sharing knowledge of the dangers of gun usage can save lives. Children are highly impressionable; they emulate the behaviors of those around them, even inadvertently, so something as critical and grave as gun safety is a topic that needs to be treated with the utmost importance.

 One fact remains undeniable: school shootings are a systematic failure of our country to protect its most vulnerable population. The fact that school shootings are almost normalized in our country is an alarm that should be ringing in every parent, school, and politician’s ear. “Whenever I hear about it, it’s a little bit shocking, but not that shocking. It’s kind of like I’m used to it,” senior Rosa Darko said.

Rather than practice conjugation in Spanish or factoring in math class, American students must practice hiding under desks, silently awaiting an armed shooter that may have sat next to them in class. This is a reality that has come true for 29 schools just in this year alone. Politicians and schools need to stop just offering prayers and condolences, they need to offer change.