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A 15-year-old student used a handgun to kill four people and injure seven others at his US high school in Oxford Charter Township, Michigan, in the deadliest US school shooting this year.
The shooting, which took place on Tuesday, November 30, has devastated the Oxford community and once again stunned Americans who have come to know such tragedies as a seemingly annual occurrence.
But for those who haven’t been following this incident or for those who aren’t familiar with the issue, here’s a summary of what happened, how it happened and some background information on school shootings in the United States.
According to law enforcement officials, the shooter emerged from a bathroom at Oxford High School on Tuesday afternoon and opened fire on students in the hallway.
The shooter fired approximately 30 rounds using a semiautomatic handgun that his parents had purchased for him as a gift.
By the time he was arrested the suspect had shot 11 people. He injured six students ages 14 to 17, a 47-year-old teacher and killed four other students.
Law enforcement officials identified the students killed as 14-year-old Hana St. Juliana, 16-year-old Tate Myre, 17-year-old Madisyn Baldwin and 17-year-old Justin Shilling.
US prosecutors said that the 15-year-old suspect will be charged as an adult rather than a minor due to the severity of the crime. The suspect has been charged with one count of terrorism causing death, four counts of first-degree murder and several other charges. He will face life in prison if convicted.
His parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley, have also been arrested and face criminal charges for their accused responsibility in the shooting.
How it Happened
It is unique for the parents of a school shooter to face criminal charges in the US, but prosecutors said that the parents had responsibility in this case.
The gun that the shooter used was a gift to him by his parents and it was reportedly stored unlocked in the parents’ bedroom at home. There were also documented warning signs prior to the shooting that the parents and school knew about.
The day before the shooting, a teacher reported to James and Jennifer Crumbley that their son was seen using his phone to search online for ammunition. Their son defended this search history saying that shooting was a family hobby, and the parents confirmed this account.
Jennifer Crumbley later texted her son about the incident: “LOL I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught.”
Then, on Tuesday morning before the shooting took place, the parents were called to the high school and told of disturbing drawings a teacher found at their son’s desk.
The drawings depicted a person who had been shot, a laughing emoji and a gun. Their son also wrote on a drawing, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me.”
Despite this warning from the school, prosecutors said that James and Jennifer Crumbley did not want their son to be “sent home to an empty house,” and he was ultimately allowed to continue with class that day.
The shooting started a few hours later.
Authorities said that when news of what was happening at the school reached the parents, James Crumbley called the police to report that a weapon was missing from his home and that his son could be the shooter.
James and Jennifer Crumbley have each been arrested and charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.
Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald said in a news conference, “While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger, there are other individuals who contributed to the events on November 30 and it’s my intention to hold them accountable as well.”
School Shootings in the US
If you’re wondering why the US seems to have a consistent problem with school shootings whereas other developed countries do not, sadly there’s no single or easy answer to this.
Some argue that US gun laws and readily available firearms are to blame.
The United States Constitution, the document which the country’s fundamental laws and national government were founded on, states in the Second Amendment that US citizens have the right to bear arms.
This means that any US citizen who meets the federal and state laws surrounding firearms, such as being of age, having a recognized government ID and no criminal history, can legally purchase a gun.
However, some states have laxer laws than others regarding the purchase or storage of a firearm, and Michigan where this shooting occurred is one of them.
In a news conference discussing the shooting, Prosecutor McDonald said, “Michigan’s laws are woefully inadequate. We don’t have a safe storage law. We’re not legally required to store your weapon in a safe manner.”
And while some Americans argue that stricter gun laws would prevent school shootings like this from happening, others argue that restrictions would only inconvenience law-abiding gun owners while people in the mental space to carry out an attack would find a way to do so regardless of legal barriers.
But potential causes or contributing factors aside, a few points are clear. The US has a consistent problem with school shootings, other developed countries do not have this problem and school shootings in the US don’t seem to be stopping any time soon.
In a report by Education Week where school shootings were classified as “shootings on K-12 school property that resulted in firearm-related injuries or death,” it was found that there have been 29 school shootings in the US this year.
There were also 10 school shootings in the US in 2020, 24 in 2019 and another 24 in 2018. This disturbing trend is not new, either.
In 1999 two teenagers shot and killed 13 people at Columbine High School in Colorado.
In 2007 a 23-year-old shot and killed 32 people at Virginia Tech university in Virginia.
In 2012 a 20-year-old shot and killed 20 children ages 6 to 7 and six employees at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
When it comes to school shootings in the United States, the list goes on and little has changed over the years.