Was Ethan Crumbley's gun locked up?


Has the Post prejudged this question?: The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt died suddenly this week, at age 66. 

It's impressive to see the esteem with which Hiatt was regarded by his colleagues. He had served as editorial page editor from the year 2000 on.

We assume that Hiatt played no role in the editorial we cite today. We think the editorial showcases a pair of tendencies we all should try to avoid.

For starters, we'll mention the love of punishment and the desire for retribution in the wake of horrible tragedies. 

Sometimes, punishment is necessary, but that doesn't mean we should love it. The headline on yesterday's editorial employs a type of language we have specifically tried to question over the past few years:

When parents enable gun massacres, they should be locked up, too

If a parent "enables a gun massacre," should that parent be charged with a crime? 

Depending on the circumstances, the answer may be yes. In the recent incident under consideration, we're mainly struck by the eagerness with which the board dreams of "locking them up."

The incident under consideration, of course, is the recent school shooting in Oxford, Michigan. Four high school students were shot and killed. Should the parents of the 15-year-old shooter be convicted of a crime? Should they be "locked up?"

As always, we'd recommend suspending judgment until all the facts are in. In the following passage, is it possible that the board got out over its skis?

WASHINGTON POST EDITORIAL (12/7/21): [District Attorney Karen] McDonald on Friday announced that James and Jennifer Crumbley have been charged with involuntary manslaughter... “While the shooter was the one who entered the high school and pulled the trigger,” Ms. McDonald said, “there are other individuals who contributed to the events on Nov. 30.”

She detailed the events that culminated in the deadliest school shooting in more than three years. The day after Thanksgiving, the father took his son to buy a semiautomatic handgun. “My new beauty,” Ethan posted online. He and his mother spent a day testing the gun. They stored it unlocked in the parents’ bedroom...

The editors state, as a matter of fact, that the gun had been "stored unlocked." That may well be true.

But at the arraignment of the parents, their defense attorney, Shannon Smith, specifically contradicted that claim. In its news report on the arraignment, the Post didn't report Smith's statement, but the New York Times did:

MULLANY ET AL (12/5/21): The defense lawyers also disputed the prosecutor’s statement that the gun was easily accessible in the Crumbley home. “The court is only aware of the facts the prosecution has presented, but that gun was actually locked,” Ms. Smith said. She also said that “there is far more going on than what this court has been made aware of.”

We don't know if Smith's statement is accurate. In its own report of the arraignment, CNN offered more detail:

SUNG ET AL (12/4/21): During Saturday's arraignment, defense lawyers denied prosecutors' contentions that the parents gave Ethan Crumbley unfettered access to the gun he's accused of using.

Oakland County Prosecutor Karen McDonald has alleged that James Crumbley on November 26 bought the gun at a store in Oxford, and that the parents gave the weapon to their son as an early Christmas present.

During Saturday's arraignment, McDonald said, "It's ... clear from the facts that (Ethan Crumbley) had total access to this weapon," and that the parents "didn't secure (the gun) and they allowed him free access to it."

James Crumbley shook his head as McDonald made both statements.

One of the parents' attorneys, Shannon Smith, countered during the hearing that "the gun was actually locked."

"When the prosecution is stating that this child had free access to a gun, that is just absolutely not true," Smith said. "This court is going to see ... there is far more going on than what this court has been made aware of."

We have no idea what the truth is on this point. Reportedly, there is no state law in Michigan which would have required the Crumbleys to keep the gun locked up. 

Based on McDonald's behavior in the past week, we would be slow to assume that her statements are always accurate. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bouchard has offered a snide remark to the effect that the gun obviously hadn't been locked up securely enough.

(Sorry, we can't find a transcript.)

Our tribe has been trying to "lock up" quite a few people lately. We often cast a very wide net as we look for people to blame and punish.

In recent years, we've also prejudged an array of major cases where the facts turned out to be vastly different than we first widely assumed. In other cases, we simply cling to the inaccurate claims which drive our inaccurate stories.

We human beings never seem to learn from such experiences. Despite this recent history, we seem eager to lock more people up, and to assume the truth of the first account we hear of some event, even when it comes to us from a prosecutor who now seems to live at CNN.

Was the lawyer's statement accurate? We don't have the slightest idea. Does the Post editorial board know?

The Post is going to miss Fred Hiatt. The world is full of good people. 


  1. Yeah, dear Bob, but even if the gun wasn't locked up, how is it a manslaughter?

    We can see how it could be prosecuted as negligence of some sort, but to be accused of manslaughter shouldn't you actually slaughter someone?

  2. "we're mainly struck by the eagerness with which the board dreams of "locking them up."

    And yet Somerby gives no example of that eagerness. His use of the word "dreams" is putting a thumb on the scales. He doesn't know what they think, much less what they dream.

    Then Somerby says:

    "Based on McDonald's behavior in the past week, we would be slow to assume that her statements are always accurate. Meanwhile, Sheriff Bouchard has offered a snide remark to the effect that the gun obviously hadn't been locked up securely enough."

    Crumbley not only used the gun to shoot students, but he was reported to have been showing the gun to other students before the shooting, to the point of being brought into the office about it. Clearly Ethan had access to the gun. Asserting that the gun was locked up makes no sense in view of the fact that he shot four students. The Sheriff's remark is not snide, it is factual and pretty obvious.

    Somerby dislikes McDonald for some reason that he has not yet stated. He has been making his own snide comments about her and her logorrhea for several days now. He complained about her doing things that add up to doing her job as District Attorney, but Somerby pretends that amounts to bloodlust, without ever specifying what she did wrong.

    Somerby says that he cannot know the truth about whether the gun was locked up, but he demonstrates that he is fully prepared to believe whatever the defense attorny says and disbelieve what the police and prosecutors say. Again, on no facts that might refute what (allegedly) happened, that Crumbley had the gun and shot several students with it.

    Unless Somerby has some evidence to present here about why McDonald should be disbelieved, I am more inclined to believe her than I am the parents of this boy. For one thing, McDonald has nothing to gain by locking up an innocent kid (if he were innocent) whereas the parents have a great deal to gain by lying about their own actions and cleaning up after their child. Further, the presence of the gun at his school speaks for itself.

    "Our tribe" (to which Somerby does not belong) is not eager to lock up kids. It is eager to reduce gun violence by limiting access to guns, so that tragedies like this one are prevented. Somerby never comments on that.

    Somerby pretends he doesn't know which lawyer is lying, but he believes the one with the most unlikely story, the one that says the gun was locked away -- despite the fact that the boy had access to the gun at school, both before and during the shooting. Somerby justifies his bias by claiming that new facts will come forth, but what can be "new" about the gun that was used by the boy and recovered on the scene? Only finding the gun still securely locked away would refute that, and that is not what was found. Meanwhile, Crumbley's parents fled arraignment. What does Somerby make of that and their likely truthfulness?

    1. McDonald is a Democrat. That is the reason Somerby is going after her.

    2. He does seem to be going after her for some reason. She is just doing her job, in my opinion, but that bugs him for some reason.

    3. Somerby doesn't like it when Rachel Maddow wants to lock people up either. Maybe this is another issue between Somerby and his mother. Maybe she locked him in a closet once and he has never gotten over it.

    4. The mother was a Trump supporter, so naturally the right wing media will politicize McDonald going after them. It’s probably already a thing in right wing media, the Crumbleys as two more victims in the evil liberals’ desire to lock up Trump supporters. It’s a familiar theme here with Somerby. He can see the right wing view of this already, and is here to give it credence.

    5. The incels are calling Crumbley the new Elliott Rodgers.

  3. "Our tribe has been trying to "lock up" quite a few people lately. We often cast a very wide net as we look for people to blame and punish."

    At least Somerby is finally admitting that he is a Republican. They are, after all, the law and order, hang'em high, lock'em up and throw away the key party.

    Is Somerby aware that the job of the District Attorney and prosecutor is to convict people and recommend a sentence, usually to lock criminals up? Clearly Somerby is not aware that Democrats (liberals and progressives) tend to support police reform, prison reform, sentencing reform, overhaul of the justice system, defunding of police in favor of social services and other alternatives. These are not the measures favored by those who lust to lock people up, as Somerby claims liberals crave (dream about).

    Somerby makes no sense today when he attributes stances to tribes, but he makes less sense when he tries to exonerate these parents, who bought a 15 year old a handgun for Christmas, or is he trying to say that no such gun exists, after it was used to kill four innocent teens, whose greatest crime was walking down a hallway?

  4. This boy was dangerous when he took that gun to school and, given that he has had little treatment since then, he most likely remains dangerous. Should dangerous teens be permitted to walk around free after killing people? They reportedly have him on suicide watch, which seems like a good precaution. Somerby thinks he shouldn't be locked up, not even for his own good, presumably. But should he be permitted to wander around and have access to another gun and more innocent victims? Is that the right thing for our society to do? Somerby never says what the alternative should be, and without that, it seems specious to be complaining because an editorial board proposes some common sense actions, including that the parents of this child be held accountable for enabling his crimes. Does Somerby know that these parents have other children? Maybe that is a subsequent fact that he is ignoring or hasn't heard. Or maybe it doesn't matter to him, as long as the gun buyers are left free to buy and use guns as they please, even when their sons pay the cost for their misuse.

  5. "The Post is going to miss Fred Hiatt. The world is full of good people."

    What is the point of mentioning Fred Hiatt at all, if he wasn't involved in writing that editorial? This seems like a cheap use of a deceased editor to say something positive, to pretend a balance he doesn't display in anything he says in his essay.

    The world is full of good people? Less full because of the deaths of four innocent teens. Is a parent a good person for having given a disturbed kid a handgun and then not noticed when he took it to school? These parents abandoned their son by running away from their responsibility to him, before and after his crime. Is it fair to blame them? Of course it is. Some children give no warning of their intent to do something horrible. This boy gave plenty of warning. The school and his parents both failed to respond to his journal, his social media posts, his delight in the gun, his claims about what he was going to do with it, even when he took the gun to school and sufficiently scared others that he was called into the office about it. There was warning and both the parents and the school failed to heed it. That is what they are being charged with, being inadequate in fulfilling their responsibility to kids. And the boy who did the actual shooting is not blameless either.

    Is Somerby aware that Ethan Crumbley is being hailed as a hero on the incel websites? They are calling him another Elliot Rodgers (who killed 6 women on a college campus). That suggests that this isn't only a personal tragedy but a larger manifestation of festering sores in our society that also need to be addressed. Preventing easy access to guns by those who shouldn't have them (yes, including children and mentally ill people) is essential and measures shouldn't stop there.

    But Somerby thinks it is wrong for anyone to talk about this, as this District Attorney apparently did (how often, we don't know, since Somerby doesn't seem to understand CNN's news loop reporting of breaking stories). He thinks the blame belongs to the liberals for discussing this stuff, not to those who enabled and perpetrated yet another mass murder.

    The right is closing ranks around its shooters, and Somerby shows us today that he is another link in that chain. And no, Somerby is no liberal and although there are liberals who own guns and support the 2nd Ammendment, they do not agree with Somerby's take on this and tend to support responsible gun ownership. These parents are the poster children for irresponsible ownership.

  6. Of course the parents are going to say the gun was locked up. What else are they going to say?

  7. Next, Somerby will be argued that guns shouldn't be locked up either.

    Why shouldn't guilty people be punished? When will Somerby present a philosophical argument about that?

    So far, he behaves like a guilty person (perhaps only his Catholic sense of guilt over normal behavior) seeking to be let off the hook by arguing that other guilty people deserve clemency. Is this how a society should be dealing with crime? Crickets from Somerby on that.

  8. If the gun was locked up, how did he get to it?

    1. What evidence is there that a 15 year old kid could pick locks? Does that seem more likely than that the gun was simply left unlocked?

      Somerby chooses to believe the parents, but on what evidence? If the gun were locked up, why would they fear their arraignment, drain their bank account and flee to Detroit to avoid being arrested for failure to appear in court? Why not just show the lockable gun container to a defense attorney who could argue in court that the gun was secure?

      If you leave a key available, is the gun really locked up? And if Ethan broke into a container to get the gun, why would the parents flee? And then there is the problem of Ethan showing the gun to others at school before the shooting. If the school called the parents, why would they leave the gun where he could get at it again? Those parents have a lot of questions to answer. Not for Somerby though, and that seems odd given his propensity to focus in on details and get hung up on logical quandaries. But not in this case. Why not?

  9. Meanwhile, Somerby thinks racism is no longer a thing, but this is a day in a black person's life (from The Root):

    "In an incident captured on TikTok by fuxktdub and reported in Newsweek, a woman accused a Black man of stealing her phone, when it was in her purse the entire time.

    The video has gotten over 2.1 million views since it was posted earlier this week. The footage starts in the middle of the incident with Karen speaking to the store clerk.

    From Newsweek:

    The woman behind the camera asked the store clerk if he could resolve the issue by calling the accusing woman’s phone. She added that the woman who could not find her phone would not give them her number to call it.

    Before agreeing to do so, the woman with the “lost” phone claims the Black man could have turned off the ringer.

    The woman holding the camera then sarcastically asked if she wanted them to get naked to prove they did not have the phone in their possession.

    The store clerk asked all parties to try and remain calm as they tried to resolve the problem.

    The woman with the lost phone then turned to the Black man and pleaded with him to return her phone. The woman holding the camera demanded the woman with the lost phone talk to the store clerk, who was trying to help her by calling it.

    She then asked if the woman would prefer to pat the Black man down after he has already emptied his pockets.

    The store clerk had to remind the woman with the lost phone she still had not given him her number.

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    The woman’s reasoning for thinking her phone was stolen? According to Newsweek, the Black man walked behind her and “may” have taken it out of her bag.

    Yeah, okay.

    She eventually typed her number into the store clerk’s phone and voila. It was in her purse the whole time. Karen tried to apologize but the couple wasn’t going for it. They just skedaddled.

    As you would imagine, a lot of people in tiktok’s comments were skeptical:

    “She definitely seen that phone in that nightmare of a bag,” one user wrote.

    “She didn’t wanna call her phone because she saw it in her bag and knew you were recording… smh,” wrote another.

    Another user pointed out, “she has an Apple Watch? She could’ve literally pinged her phone from her watch?!? People are wild.”

    Those are all valid points.

    I bet she was close to calling the police.

    But in the end, Karen just ended up looking foolish and embarrassing herself."

    How would Somerby like to deal with such accusations during his trips to the convenience store?

    1. We can only hope that her car got stolen outside that convenient store. Right?

      Neither “The Root “ or any other outlet would report on it, but none of us would be at all surprised if it did.

    2. Somerby thinks racism is no longer a thing?
      What a dumbfuck Right-winger Somerby is.

    3. No, he thinks racism will always be a thing.

      Along with every other human weakness.

    4. Cecelia, that isn't what Somerby has been saying at all. Your assertions about what Somerby thinks need to be consistent with what he actually says.

  10. Where have you gone Lara Logan? Our Jew baiters turn their loony hearts to you….
    Anyway, the Crumblys had a mentality ill child, they seemed to encourage this, but in any event they bought him a gun. If they tried to secure it, it was a poor effort to do so, and that can be fairly judged by the results. Micheal Moore published a fan letter Mrs. Crumbly sent to Trump. It’s very illuminating.

    1. They can always google “Trump and Hitler”.

    2. Not sure why you even said that, Cecelia, but here is some of what you get when you do Google Trump and Hitler:









    3. Thanks, Anonymouse10:52am, you’ve just illustrated why I said it.

    4. It is unclear why you said it. It is another of your pseudo-clever drive-by quips that has nothing to do with anything anyone has said and makes no sense. Maybe this is the kind of thing applauded on conservative blogs, but it shows you have no interest in actually discussing anything here.

    5. Cecelia trying to gaslight us into thinking the Republican Party isn't a death cult. LOL.

      The poor deluded fool thinks TDH readers are common NY Times political reporters hoping for a pat on the head from a Right-winger.

  11. From Rawstory:

    "Following the deadly Oxford High School shooting on Nov. 30 by 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley that left four students dead as well as wounded six others and a teacher, Michigan authorities warn a copycat trend is plaguing the state with children's young as nine years old threatening gun violence against their peers.

    “We have charged 18 youth in the last few days with crimes relating to school threats," Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement Wednesday. "Much has been written about these types of cases lately, yet still these serious events continue to happen."

    If Somerby had any concern about children, he might be talking about this aftermath of Crumbley's shooting, instead of defending parents who bought their obviously disturbed son a gun.

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  13. What’s happening in schools with kids?

    1. https://www.rawstory.com/school-shooting-copycats/

      Seen on Facebook: I want to live in a country that loves its children more than its guns.

      Kids are imitating Ethan Crumbley -- that's what's happening. And who was Crumbley imitating?

    2. What's happening among children is a reflection of what's happening among adults:


    3. So we’ve gone from the decades when high school kids parked their pickups with rifles racked in the windows to arguing that kids now shoot other kids cuz Republicans.

      Duly noted, mensches. .

    4. A hunting rifle is not an assault weapon (AR-15) and even Cecelia probably knows that.

      I am probably older than Cecelia, but I don't remember a time when it was OK for high school students to bring their guns to school.

      Kids shoot other kids cuz Republicans because Republicans have been the major supporters of the NRA in their effort to place guns in every household. It is the guns that have produced these widespread mass shootings in schools, sometimes by high school students, sometimes by men who have no connection to schools but target them with their assault weapons.

      Cecelia's bad faith comment is representative of the way that Republicans have continually denied any responsibility for the outcomes made possible by their support for guns, including the ones that have no other purpose than to shoot people.

      Her mocking use of Yiddish is also noted.

    5. A bad faith comment from a Right-winger?
      It must be a day of the week that ends in "y".

    6. Please, Cecilia, now is not the time to politicize common sense gun laws. Now is the time for Little Chickenshits to go down to Mar-a-Lago to visit the Big Chickenshit.