The Weekly Reload Podcast

Professor Evan Bernick on Charges Against the Michigan School Shooter's Parents

December 13th, 2021

On this episode, I talk to Northern Illinois University College of Law professor Evan Bernick about the unprecedented charges against the parents of the 15-year-old who allegedly murdered 4 of his classmates in Michigan late last month.

We discuss his recent piece in The Washington Post warning of the dangers of the case. Bernick is skeptical of the logic being employed by prosecutors to charge the parents with negligent manslaughter in an attempt to hold them responsible for their son's criminal acts. He argues the prosecution could set a troubling new precedent that will be used against vulnerable populations once this high-profile case fades from the headlines.

He said expansions of how broadly serious criminal offenses are interpreted tend to lead to an increase in prosecutions of minorities. We discuss how that principle often applies to gun laws but is rarely given the same level of discussion. We also look at how the same question is being considered in the Supreme Court's gun-carry case.

At the same time, we debate the culpability of the parents involved in the Michigan school shooting and what kind of consequences they should face. Prosecutors allege the pair were informed about their son's notes and drawings indicating he was about to carry out his attack on the very day it happened but did nothing to intervene. If the parents shouldn't be charged for the killings themselves despite allegedly providing access to the firearm and doing nothing to respond to the warning signs, what should be done instead? Are safe storage laws a good alternative as Bernick suggests?

Plus, contributing writer Jake Fogleman and I cover the latest developments on permitless carry in Florida as well as Beto O'Rourke's faltering poll numbers in the Texas gubernatorial race.