Should parents be held accountable for school shootings?
We’ve been mourning the tragedy that occurred at Santa Fe High School last week in which Kimberly Vaughan, Shana Fisher, Angelique Ramirez, Christian Riley Garcia, Jared Black, Sabika Sheikh, Christopher Jake Stone, Aaron Kyle McLeod, Glenda Perkins, and Cynthia Tisdale lost their lives and 13 others were injured at the hand of 17-year-old Dimitrios Pagourtzis…using a .38 revolver and a shotgun his father owned.
Texas already has a law in place that holds adults liable when a child under 17 accesses their guns. Because of his age, the parents of Dimitrios Pagourtzis aren’t held liable under Texas’ safe storage law but does that make them less negligent? Rosie Yanas and Christopher Stone (parents of Christopher Jake Stone) don’t think so. They’ve filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against Antonio Pagourtzis and Rose Marie Kosmetatos, Dimitrios Pagourtzis’ parents.
Their petition states that “Had the Murderer not had available to him the weapons for his carnage, his hidden black rage might well have continued to simmer within, but, the life’s blood of his teacher and peers, including DECEDENT CHRISTOPHER JAKE STONE, would not have been so horribly, callously and needlessly spilled,”.
Rosie Yanas and Christopher Stone are demanding that Antonios Pagourtzis and Rose Marie Kosmetatos “be held fully accountable in compensable and exemplary damages for the dreadful and irredeemable losses their weapons directly and proximately caused.”
The petition sites the following negligent acts:
- Failing to properly secure their weapons
- Permitting their son to have access to their weapons and ammunition
- Failing to obtain mental health counseling and services for their son
- Failing to properly warn the public of Dimitrios’ “dangerous propensities,” and
- Negligently entrusting their weapons to their son
Yanas and Stone are seeking damages in excess of 1 million dollars.
“I think there’s a difference: When the law says you can’t do something, a lot of people say, ‘I’m not gonna do it,’” said Adam Winkler, a University of California at Los Angeles law professor who studies gun violence. “Civil liability laws don’t tell gun owners they have to store their guns safely. It basically says, ‘You can take your chances.’”. The guns used to kill 10 and injure 13 were kept in Pagourtzis’ closet.
Antonio Pagourtzis and Rose Marie Kosmetatos allegedly took that chance.
Parental liability in cases of violent actions of children has been an ongoing question in the case of school shootings. Parents who allow children with questionable mental health access to weapons could be held liable in some cases. We, as parents, need to be vigilant in knowing what is going on in our kids’ lives, how they are dealing with it, and whether or not they need help. As a society, we must work towards ending school violence and ensuring all children are safe at school. If your child has been injured at school, seek the help of an experienced attorney.
For Reference: Texas’ Gun Storage Law
Under Texas State law, if a child under 17 years of age gains access to a readily dischargeable firearm (i.e., loaded with ammunition, whether or not a round is in the chamber), a person is criminally liable if he or she, “with criminal negligence:”
Failure to secure the firearm (i.e., to take steps a reasonable person would take to prevent the access to a readily dischargeable firearm by a child, including but not limited to placing a firearm in a locked container or temporarily rendering the firearm inoperable by a trigger lock or other means); or left the firearm in a place to which the person knew or should have known the child would gain access. However, a person is not guilty under this law if the child’s access to the firearm:
- Was supervised by a person older than age 18 and was for hunting, sporting, or other lawful purposes
- Consisted of lawful defense by the child of people or property
- Was gained by entering property in violation of this code
- Occurred during a time when the actor was engaged in an agricultural enterprise.