GUNS-ONE OF THE LEADING CAUSES OF DEATH OF CHILDREN UNDER 18 IN THE UNITED STATES-PART 2
This is the second of a series of blogs about legal consequences to minors and their parents from gun-related incidents. You can read part 1 of this series here
The legal consequences to both minors and their parents from gun-related incidents can be devastating. Because of the number of school shootings and the fear a minor may actually carry out their threat, everyone including the schools, the police, the courts, the prosecutors, the judges, and parents must take the threat of gun violence very seriously.
A 14-year- old boy is tired of being bullied at school. He believes certain students and teachers are responsible for the bullying or, by their inaction, allow the bullying to continue. He drops an anonymous note in a peer-reviewed “bully box” at school detailing how he is being bullied. Students who read the note recognize the note must have come from the minor and talk to him. The minor tells them he plans to smuggle in a gun to school to kill certain students and staff and any attackers. The students immediately report these comments to the administration. The minor is brought in and questioned by administrators. He admits he made these statements and had this plan but he was not going to actually do it. The police are immediately notified. The minor’s parents are shocked to hear about his plan and allow the police to search the minor’s room and their home. They search for guns, ammunition, weapons, and written comments and drawings done by the minor. The boy is immediately suspended from school pending an expulsion. He is later arrested and incarcerated in Juvenile Hall. Psychological evaluations are ordered. The parents want their son detained at home. His attorney tells them they have to rid the home of all guns, ammunition, and any and all weapons for the court to consider releasing their son to their home. The minor is charged in Juvenile Court with multiple felony counts of California Penal Code section 422, Threatening Crime with Intent to Terrorize. He is charged with a number of counts because he specifically mentioned a number of people he intended to kill. Under California sentencing law, the maximum time in custody he could potentially face would be three years for the first count and an additional 8 months for each subsequent count.
Two months prior to this incident, the minor’s grandmother bought her grandson and his father a .22 rifle to shoot thinking it would be a bonding experience for them. In the police and probation reports, it was highlighted that the minor had access to the 22. rifle and its ammunition at home. Brenda Spencer, who had just turned 16 when her offense occurred, had access to the .22 rifle and the ammunition she had received as a Christmas gift when she killed the principal and custodian and wounded eight children at the school across the street from her home. She is serving a life sentence in prison.
We represent minors who have come under the same scrutiny for pictures they have drawn of violence, guns, and death. Also, minors can make impulsive comments to fellow students or teachers about wanting to kill someone. We are seeing more of these types of comments being reported from Facebook and Twitter entries resulting in school suspension, expulsion proceedings and Juvenile Court proceedings. Recently Instagram has become a place for minors to post pictures trying to impress one another with their outrageousness. A picture of a minor posturing with guns invites a great deal of concern.
What should parents do?
1. If you have guns in your home, keep them securely locked, unloaded and only an adult have access to the key. The ammunition should be stored separately and also be in a locked box with only an adult having access to the key.
2. Be aware of what your minor is posting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Be aware of what they text and what they have in their rooms. Control the home environment and be the leader of the pack. You can be your minor’s friend when they turn 18.
Email us and tell us your comments. If you would like us to do a blog on a particular subject, please let us know. Share experiences you may have had that could be helpful to others. Visit our educational videos on You Tube at JuvenileLawCenter.com or McGlinn & McGlinn, Attorneys at Law.