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Michigan's gun laws are shaping the question of accountability in school shootings

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Kris Brown joins us next. She's the president of the advocacy group, Brady United Against Gun Violence.

Good morning.

KRIS BROWN: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: How unusual is it for parents to face criminal charges in connection with a child's alleged crimes?

BROWN: It's highly unusual. I can't think of another instance of a school shooting in which parents have been convicted of a charge similar to this or even charged with a similar charge.

INSKEEP: Well, when you heard the news of these charges and also the information that backs up those charges, does it make sense to you?

BROWN: It does make sense to me. Tragically, it makes perfect sense to me. What's befuddling is how it didn't make sense to the parents before the fact. And I think that's why these charges are so important. Who's in the best position to stop these kinds of school shootings? Sadly, it is the parents most of the time - because 75% of school shooters get their guns from a home. And the difference in stopping at a safe storage, which the prosecutor very carefully has laid out, was not the case in this home.

INSKEEP: Would you just define safe storage for me, please?

BROWN: Yes - a gun unloaded, locked, ammunition separate.

INSKEEP: And that's essential. I mean, people have a right to have a weapon in this country. But it's essential to have it safely stored. Can I just ask you - this is not the only teenager who's ever been accused of a shooting - or of a school shooting, tragically. What's a more common story with parents in this situation? What are things you more commonly hear?

BROWN: Well, I mean, often each of these - with school shootings, which I just - as tragic as they are, we're talking about - 2% to 3% of all gun deaths in this country are mass shootings, which, typically, school shootings very sadly are. What we find parents facing in terms of potential risk or charges when a child is shot in their home - most often - with a gun is potentially charges of civil liability, often from parents whose child was on a playdate at the home - and access to those kinds of guns.

But we need better laws here, Steve, to really push two things. One is the preventative aspect of safe storage. We haven't spent a lot of time or money or federal effort actually educating gun owners about the life-saving requirement of safe storage - that it's essential to be a responsible gun owner. In fact, we face an organization in the National Rifle Association that chose to abandon those discussions more than 30 years ago and double down on a guns-everywhere approach to the world. And then we need things like Ethan's Law - that's a pact by Mike and Kristin Song, who lost their child at a play date - that puts those incentives in place and then has the appropriate kind of penalties if violations of those laws are found. We need to spend more effort preventing these kinds of shootings. And, by the way, suicide and unintentional injury of kids - eight kids a day are killed or injured that way. We would stop that, too, with safe storage.

INSKEEP: And when you talk about safe storage and prevention, you're really talking about education here, as opposed to criminal penalties after the fact. Is that correct?

BROWN: I think it has to be both. But I think the education component when we talk about human life is critical. We don't want to wait until we have to prosecute because people are dead. And we have 40,000 people a year in America who are dying from gun violence. We have to focus on the role of prevention. And the people in the best place to prevent this are gun owners responsibly storing their guns, safely storing their guns.

INSKEEP: Kris Brown is president of Brady United. Thanks so much for your time.

BROWN: Thanks, Steve. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.