New bill would require gun owners to safely store weapons away from children

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin introduces legislation following Oxford High School shooting

FILE - In this Dec. 16, 2019, file photo, U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin, D-Mich., holds a constituent community conversation at Oakland University in Rochester, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File) (Carlos Osorio, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Newly proposed legislation would make gun owners liable if children access and use their weapons to commit a crime or hurt others.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin (MI-08) announced a new bill Wednesday that would require gun owners to securely store their firearms when children live with them or have reasonable access to them. If a child accessed and used the weapon to commit a crime or hurt others, the gun owners could be charged with up to five years in prison.

“My bill is a serious effort to address a safety issue that is taking American lives,” Slotkin wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “This goes for the shooter in Oxford, as well as the thousands of instances where kids have stolen guns for crime or have accidentally harmed or killed others with a family member’s gun.”

The U.S. rep.’s Safe Guns, Safe Kids Act was introduced two weeks after four students were killed and seven people were wounded in the Oxford High School shooting in Oxford, Michigan. Authorities say the suspected shooter, Ethan Crumbley, 15, used a 9 mm pistol that was recently purchased by his father, James Crumbley, 45. Prosecutors have also said that the handgun was stored in an unlocked drawer in the parents’ bedroom, making it easily accessible to their son.

Ethan Crumbley faces 24 charges in connection with the Nov. 30 mass shooting, including terrorism and first-degree murder charges. His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, 43, are also facing four counts of involuntary manslaughter for their alleged role in the shooting.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said earlier this month that it is not common to charge the parents in school shooting cases, but evidence in this case reportedly shows that James and Jennifer Crumbley had a hand in the events leading up to the shooting.

Officials accuse the couple of contributing to the tragedy by giving their son the semi-automatic handgun and ignoring his cries for help, which were reportedly indicated by a violent drawing he sketched in class shortly before the shooting inside Oxford High School.

More: Parents of Oxford shooting suspect appear in court for first time since arraignments

Still, in most cases, officials say that parents and gun owners are not held responsible if their children use their weapons to commit a crime. Gun owners are not legally required to safely store their weapons inside their homes.

“... while the apparent mountain of evidence allows (James and Jennifer Crumbley) in this case to be charged, there’s actually nothing in Michigan or federal law that holds parents accountable for aiding their child in committing a crime,” Slotkin wrote Wednesday.

“Ensuring that firearms are properly stored, and not left to fall into the hands of those who could use them for violence or crime, is essential.”

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel, who has publicly supported charging James and Jennifer Crumbley in the Oxford shooting, showed support for Slotkin’s new bill on Wednesday.

“This bill is an example of commonsense reform that reinforces responsible gun ownership and firearm safety. I fully support holding accountable anyone who fails to properly store a firearm that is then used by a child to hurt themselves or others,” Nessel said in a statement. “Recognizing that our kids should not have easy access to guns does not infringe on anyone’s right to bear arms – it properly acknowledges the responsibility that comes with that right.”

Related: Could parents of Oxford High School shooting suspect face federal charges for purchase of gun used in shooting?

More: Oxford High School shooting coverage

About the Author:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.