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Are parents criminally responsible for the actions of their child?

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By Thaddeus Hoffmeister

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Running through the scenarios (assuming there is no safe-storage law):

I keep a loaded handgun in an unlocked drawer and my two-year-old takes it to a cousin's house one day to play with it, and ends up shooting the cousin. My fault.

I keep a loaded handgun in an unlocked drawer with instructions that my 16-year-old is never to touch it, but s/he takes it to school one day and intentionally shoots a kid. Not my fault.

I keep a loaded handgun in an unlocked drawer that I bought in the presence of my 16-year-old and have told them it's his or her Christmas present, and take them to a shooting range. Then I learn that they have been searching ammunition online and drawing pictures of shootings with annotations such as "The world is dead." The school asks me to remove my child from school for the day and I refuse. Hours later, my 16-year-old uses that gun to shoot a dozen or so fellow students. Morally responsible? Yes. Negligent? Yes. Criminally negligent? Not sure, but leaning yes. Criminally responsible? No.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Parents should be held legally and financially responsible for any and everything their kids do for as long as they are underage and/or still living at home.

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

Parents should be held legally and financially responsible for any and everything their kids do for as long as they are underage and/or still living at home.

Why?

3 ( +4 / -1 )

News flash your kids are your responsibility. Don’t want the responsibility don’t have them. Simple . I hope they get 60 years.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Parents should be held legally and financially responsible for any and everything their kids do for as long as they are underage and/or still living at home.

I agree.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I agree.

Why?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If you give easy access of guns to your known mentally deranged son. Then yes. You should be held accountable for when your mentally deranged son uses said gun to kill multiple people!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I keep a loaded handgun in an unlocked drawer with instructions that my 16-year-old is never to touch it, but s/he takes it to school one day and intentionally shoots a kid. Not my fault.

I disagree. You either didn't have good enough communication with your kid to know that they may take the gun, or you did and didn't protect it anyways. The gun should have been locked up for both scenarios, so I would put the parents at fault for the above. Criminal negligence resulting in death at the least.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

RiskyMosaic

It's called parental responsibility, a parent should teach their child right from wrong, and seek to instill a sense of ethics , empathy, and morality so that the child grows to be a valued member of the social community, making it a better place for themselves and others.

Too many parents are slack in this regard, and the child - and society - suffer the consequences.

A parent , being of a more mature age than their child, should realize this and be responsible or be held accountable for shortcomings resulting in liability.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Thanks for the responses.

I see a lot about moral responsibility, and I agree. It is a parent's job to raise responsible and valuable members of a community. But are they CRIMINALLY responsible for their child's actions?

Firstly, you can't draw a line between what parents are responsible for, and what they aren't. So, if my kid is at fault in a traffic accident, am I to blame? What about the driving instructor, or the licensing authority than gave the license? If my kid shoplifts or a worse form of robbery? Am I on the hook? Perhaps they 'got in with the wrong crowd.' Let's throw all the parents in jail. What if the parents are divorced, and one of them doesn't live with the child? Still at fault? At some point you have to assign agency to kids.

Secondly, the 'age of majority' is a pretty arbitrary line. It's different across the globe - generally 18 though. Some kids are more mature than others, so do the standards differ? Girls are said to be more emotionally and mentally mature than boys, so do we split the ages?

Parents should be held legally and financially responsible for any and everything their kids do for as long as they are underage and/or still living at home.

So what if my thirty-year-old has to move back with me (or never moved out, like my brother-in-law) for some reason, and breaks a law? Should I be held responsible for that?

I mean, these are all pretty nit-picky questions, but my point is that you can't simply say that 'a parent is criminally liable for everything their child does until the age of (18).'

You either didn't have good enough communication with your kid to know that they may take the gun...

Poor communication is not a crime.

...or you did and didn't protect it anyways. The gun should have been locked up for both scenarios, so I would put the parents at fault for the above. Criminal negligence resulting in death at the least.

In the poster's scenario, there was no safe-storage regulation. That's a problem with the legislature.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

P. Smith

Thanks for your response. This civility thing is pleasant. A rarity here.

Likewise. I come here to discuss, not argue.

Following this line leads to a conclusion that parents should be held criminally responsible for their children’s actions until the child reaches the age of majority.

By that I assume you mean in terms of negligence and carelessness, rather than being charged with the crimes committed, right?

Responsibility in your traffic accident example needs to be backed up to the person or people who allowed their child to get a license, not started at the driving instructor or licensing authority. The child availed themselves of those people’s services, those people didn’t grab the child and force them to learn how to drive. The parental didn’t give the child this choice when they decided to get pregnant.

Sorry, I don't see it that way at all. Of course the licensing authority 'allowed' the child to get a licence. The parents don't have that power. They can only let their child try to get a licence. And they certainly can't "grab the child and force them to learn how to drive." A parent can encourage their kid to get a licence, and even help them study the theory or learn how to drive, but force? No. And isn't driving responsibly an important part of learning to drive? That's clearly in the instructor's job description, if an instructor was used. And to be fair, I don't think parents are prosecuted in such cases.

The parental didn’t give the child this choice when they decided to get pregnant.

Well, I didn't ask to be unemployed so is the boss who fired me responsible for my stealing of bread? (Just an example)

And great point about the age of majority.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

And why have youth courts if parents, i.e. adults, are responsible for everything? Surely if parents are responsible for everything their child does, their child is responsible for nothing. At some point, kids are responsible for their own actions.

Further, if the crime is heinous enough, children can be charged as adults. (This is a contradiction in the Oxford case. The shooter is being charged as an adult, yet the parents are charged with supplying a handgun to a minor and so-on. )

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Strangerland

I disagree. You either didn't have good enough communication with your kid to know that they may take the gun, or you did and didn't protect it anyways. The gun should have been locked up for both scenarios, so I would put the parents at fault for the above. Criminal negligence resulting in death at the least.

Your communication with your kid is not good enough to know that they may take the gun? Right, because 16-year-olds never keep anything from their parents. You may as well prosecute them for not being mind-readers. No, blame for a lack of communication in that case would squarely fall on the teenager.

I included that scenario to contrast it with the other. The parents in the Oxford case had a bunch of warnings about the shooters state of mind and behaviour, and took actions, beyond failing the secure the gun, themselves that may have directly motivated or enabled the attack. I think some blame clearly lies at the feet of those parents.

The scenario in which the child takes the gun despite specific instructions not to is a little different, in my opinion. Of course, you and I would say that all firearms should be stored unloaded in a locked safe, and any ammunition should be stored separately, and also locked. But in my scenario no such law existed. You can't be held responsible for breaking a law that doesn't exist. The far right gun crowd will ask you, "What if my child takes my car without my permission and runs someone over with it? Is that my fault?" If you tell someone explicitly that they are not to do something and they do it anyway, I don't see how you are responsible.

Take guns out of it, and I think the criminally responsible, or even negligent, argument falls flat.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In the poster's scenario, there was no safe-storage regulation.

Welcome to America.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Your communication with your kid is not good enough to know that they may take the gun? Right, because 16-year-olds never keep anything from their parents. You may as well prosecute them for not being mind-readers

If that's the case, then leaving an unlocked gun around the house that your kid uses to shoot and kill someone is negligence resulting in death. In America that may not be criminal, but to anyone else in the civilized world, the idea of that not being criminal is baffling.

blame for a lack of communication in that case would squarely fall on the teenager.

I don't think you've ever raised a teenager. They are often unwilling to communicate, and lack the mental maturity and capacity to take responsibility for said communication. Blaming it on them is like being mad at a cat for not listening to you when you asked them not to scratch the sofa.

Take guns out of it, and I think the criminally responsible, or even negligent, argument falls flat.

Take the guns out of it, and this discussion isn't even happening.

But regardless, even if it's not criminally negligent, it's morally negligent. The parents of kids who use their guns to kill others are morally responsible for those deaths, due to leaving their guns accessible to their kids.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

If that's the case, then leaving an unlocked gun around the house that your kid uses to shoot and kill someone is negligence resulting in death.

And yet, as the article states, parents in such cases are rarely prosecuted. Must be a hard case to make. Besides, it is illegal in some states and jurisdictions. You paint with far too broad a brush.

I don't think you've ever raised a teenager. They are often unwilling to communicate, and lack the mental maturity and capacity to take responsibility for said communication.

You've a low opinion of teenagers. I haven't raised any, but I was one. My parents always had the lines of communication wide open, and set clear behavioural boundaries. I still kept a lot back from them and misbehaved occasionally, sometimes even illegally - nothing serious. You seem to be saying that anything less than 100% perfect parenting is grounds for prosecution. I am saying teenagers at some point have to be afforded agency and held accountable for their own actions.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Take the guns out of it, and this discussion isn't even happening.

It's a discussion about parental liability. It's not limited to guns. I even gave another example.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

In the poster's scenario, there was no safe-storage regulation.

Welcome to America.

"Twenty-seven states also have gun storage laws that are designed to protect children from accessing guns. These types of laws can take a variety of forms depending on the state. For example, some states, including California, impose criminal liability if a minor is likely to gain access to a gun because it's stored negligently."

Twenty-seven is, like, more than half.

www.findlaw.com/legalblogs/criminal-defense/gun-storage-laws-by-state/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The USA is fast becoming an uncivilised country. Members of government are threatened with death from other members of government, school boards are threatened with violence, hospital workers are threatened with violence, TV channels promote violence and hatred, The police have become an army of occupation outside any laws. This country allowed a small mob of violent thugs to invade its capitol building with very little consequence. This country has now implemented racist voting laws. This country has denied women the rights to their own bodies. This a country where millions are denied basic health care and drugs because the medical bodies over charge them so much. Thousands are starving and are homeless and have no future. Yet this country spends 800 billion on their army and weapons, but can not fund good education or welfare. This is a country that has the audacity to lecture other countries on human rights whilst promoting violence and death around the globe. This USA which calls itself a democracy is, and always has been, a plutocracy, where the 1% have complete rule over the other 99%. It is a land of violence and greed, and this is exactly the same as it wants to impose on the rest of the world.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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