Don't focus on mass shooters' parents, a gun violence expert says. Here's what we can do to stop the carnage.

The July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois left seven dead and dozens wounded.
The July 4, 2022 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois left seven dead and dozens wounded.Jacek Boczarski/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • A gun violence expert said punishing the parents of shooters won't make a longterm difference.

  • He said we need to be proactive with our laws, not reactive with our punishments.

  • The Highland Park shooting suspect's father pleaded guilty in a case this week.

The father of the man accused of killing seven people during a Highland Park, Illinois, Independence Day parade in 2022 pleaded guilty this week to charges connected to allegations that he helped get his son a gun before the mass shooting.

His plea comes just months before the Oxford High School shooting suspect's parents are set to go to trial, accused of making a firearm too easily accessible to their 15-year-old son before the 2021 shooting.

But a gun violence expert said we shouldn't focus on punishing the parents of mass shooters and mass shooting suspects — instead, he said we should enact proactive policies that prevent the carnage in the first place.

"I don't think punishing parents is really going to do it," Mark Kaplan, a gun violence researcher and social welfare professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told Insider.

He said only punishing parents is too "simplistic," adding that such a punitive approach does nothing to solve the complex, underlying issue of gun violence in America.

"Why do we wait until the incident happens to punish parents?" Kaplan added. "Why not step in? Why not have more restrictive policies in terms of [buying a gun]?"

Following the Highland Park shooting in 2022, Insider reported that science suggests that gun control policies can prevent future mass shootings and save lives.

Insider's report cited studies linking lower rates of gun-related deaths with stricter background checks, rules banning domestic abusers from owning firearms, and locked storage of guns inside homes.

Kaplan suggested having a national policy for gun insurance like we have with cars and requiring inspectors to periodically assess if gun owners are properly storing their weapons and keeping them out of the hands of children.

But the number one thing that needs to happen, Kaplan said, is the US needs to ban AR-15s for personal use.

"These are weapons of war. They have no place in the civilian population," Kaplan told Insider. "They were designed for the military, for battlefields."

Another big issue, according to Kaplan, is that gun laws vary greatly from state to state, so even if one state has very restrictive policies on gun access and ownership, an individual can just cross into the next state to more easily access a gun. One solution that could begin to address endemic gun violence, he said, is to enact standardized, uniform gun laws across the country.

The easy access to guns in the US pushes a culture of fear, Kaplan said, fueling a cycle where people buy guns to protect themselves against everyone else who has guns.

"We fear because we know people are armed. We are afraid that if we're going to walk down some dark street at night in a city known to have a high crime rate, where we suspect that if we're assaulted, someone's going to assault us with a firearm," Kaplan said.

"The reason most people own guns today, even though it's more of a perception, the reality is because they fear being victimized. So we're quick to punish," Kaplan added. "And I think the problem is that we fail by punishing. We fail to understand perhaps very important societal factors that may have contributed to this."

Robert Crimo Jr. pleaded guilty on Monday to seven misdemeanor counts of reckless conduct in connection to the July 4, 2022, Highland Park shooting. He agreed to the plea deal in exchange for a 60-day jail sentence and two years of probation, CBS News reported.

When Crimo was charged in December 2022, CNN reported that he was accused of helping his son apply for his gun license and identification in 2019. At the time, his son was 18 years old and needed parental consent to obtain a Firearm Owner's Identification card.

Crimo's son has been charged with 21 counts of first-degree murder, 48 counts of attempted murder, and 48 counts of aggravated battery in connection to the Highland Park shooting. His trial date has not yet been set.

Read the original article on Insider