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Authorities Focus on Whether Parents Could Have Stopped Killings

Days after a gunman opened fire at a Highland Park, Il., Fourth of July parade here, Alberto Fuentes arrived at a memorial for the victims, asking himself whether the 21-year-old suspect’s parents have prevented it. “The kid had a problem,” said Fuentes, 40. “I have kids, too, and if I see something, I have a responsibility. The parents had a responsibility to do something.” Millions of parents worry about their children becoming victims of a mass shooting. It is a different nightmare for the tiny but growing cluster of parents whose children, nearly always sons, pull the trigger, the New York Times reports. Some had spent years before attacks worrying about their sons’ mental health and seeking help in vain. Most do not alert the authorities before an attack, and those parents can face and accusations they ignored warning signs or even enabled attacks by allowing their sons to get ahold of deadly weapons.

Some parents change their names and leave town, or just remain silent. Others tell their stories to prevent future attacks. “It’s terrifying enough to think you might be the victim of some random piece of violence,” said Andrew Solomon, who interviewed parents of the gunmen at Columbine High School and Sandy Hook Elementary. “But to think you might be called out for not knowing, that your child had caused this, is also a terrible fate.” The parents of the man accused in Highland Park have come under scrutiny after the father sponsored his son for a firearms license despite incidents in which his son was said to have attempted suicide with a machete and drew police to his home after threatening to “kill everyone.” The father has said he did not do anything wrong and was shocked by what had taken place. As more mass shootings are carried out by killers in their teens and early 20s, prosecutors and researchers are focusing on parents to learn how their sons are radicalized, what might have stopped them and whether parents who disregard obvious warnings or provide guns to their children should be held criminally responsible. The Violence Project says that more than 50 people under 25 have killed at least four people in a public setting since 1966. That excludes mass killings attributed to gang activity, robberies or other underlying crimes.


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A daily report co-sponsored by Arizona State University, Criminal Justice Journalists, and the National Criminal Justice Association

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