After a Michigan jury convicted Jennifer Crumbley of involuntary manslaughter in a historic case that looked at the culpability of a school shooter’s parents, Craig Shilling made a prediction. “I feel like this verdict is going to echo through every household in the country,” said Shilling, whose son, Justin, was among the four students killed by Crumbley’s son Ethan at Oxford High School in 2021. Crumbley’s historic conviction shows that jurors are willing to determine that people beyond just the shooter should be held responsible when a child picks up a gun, reports the Washington Post. The verdict was hailed as a win for accountability, but the verdict’s true effect may be deterring other mass shootings. Many see the Crumbley verdict as a watershed moment that could prompt gun owners with children living at home to take the kinds of precautions that jurors found Jennifer Crumbley neglected: detecting warning signs of her son’s future violence and safely storing a gun.
Nick Suplina of Everytown for Gun Safety, an anti-gun-violence nonprofit, said the Crumbley verdict will “absolutely” help to prevent future shootings by sending a clear message to gun owners that the decisions they make in their homes could have profound effects across their communities. “The implications are bigger than the context of just this case, but the takeaway is streamlined: Lock up your guns, and you can avoid a whole host of issues that lead guns to being the leading killer of kids and teens in the country,” Suplina said. Eric Rinehart, a prosecutor in Illinois, said that while the deterrent effect of Jennifer Crumbley’s conviction won’t be felt overnight and it won’t encompass every parent, it’s nonetheless meaningful. When Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald brought charges against the Crumbley parents in 2021, she said the prosecutions were meant to send a message to gun owners that they had a responsibility to make their weapons inaccessible to children, and that there would be serious consequences if they ignored that duty.