Parental responsibilities … to what degree are parents responsible for the actions of their children?
You all remember the mass shooting in the Highland Park suburb north of Chicago on July 4th? Seven people were killed and 48 more injured by a gunman shooting into the crowd from a rooftop. The shooter used a high-powered rifle and ultimately fired no less than 83 rounds of ammunition. The shooter was Robert Eugene Crimo III, age 21 at the time, now 22. When Crimo was captured several hours after the shooting, police seized three rifles, one shotgun, and one handgun from Crimo. Crimo confessed to the shooting the following day, but has since pled ‘not guilty’. He was initially charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, but the charges were upgraded when a Lake County, Illinois, grand jury indicted Crimo on July 27, 2022. Crimo was indicted on 117 felony counts: 21 counts of first-degree murder, three for each deceased victim; along with 48 counts of attempted murder and 48 counts of aggravated battery for each victim struck by a bullet or shrapnel.
This week, Crimo’s father, Robert Bob Crimo Jr., was arrested and charged with seven counts of reckless conduct in connection with the shooting. Why, you ask? Because the father had signed the gun application permit for his son to purchase his guns, despite knowing of at least two previous incidents that would indicate that he had some serious mental health issues. In one incident, police were called when Crimo attempted suicide, and just a few months later police were again called because he was threatening to kill his entire family with knives. And yet, his father signed for him to purchase guns, and says that he has no regrets for sponsoring his son for an Illinois FOID card that allowed his son to legally purchase weapons even after the aforementioned incidents that raised red flags with police.
According to prosecutor Eric Rinehart …
“People bear responsibility when they recklessly endanger others. The government is not typically going to know more than a parent about what’s going on with an 18-, 19- or 20-year-old.”
While I fully agree with the charges against the father, others do not. Mr. Crimo’s lawyer, George M. Gomez, called the charges “baseless and unprecedented” and he went on to say that the decision “should alarm every single parent in the United States of America” who could be held criminally liable for the actions of their adult children.
In my view, the father is being charged not because he should have been a better parent, not because his son has obvious mental health problems, and not even because his son killed seven people. He is being charged because he enabled his son to do what he did. Period. He essentially put the guns in his son’s hands. Yes, it was the son who made the decision to go out and kill people for reasons that are as yet not understood, and he should pay for his actions. But the father was an accessory to the crime and he, too, bears a portion of responsibility and should pay a price.
I suspect this case will bring about a bit of controversy and I won’t be surprised if the father wins his case and the charges are dropped, but I still support charging any parent who gives permission for their child to buy a gun, especially when that child has shown a tendency to violence in the past. Don’t we, as parents, as the people who know our children better than anyone else, have a responsibility to draw a line when it comes to enabling them to destroy their own lives as well as those of others, even when they are legally considered “adults”?