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Whatever goes on in the minds of teenagers can be mysterious to adults. Even the most caring parents sometimes wonder why their kids do what they do and they certainly can't always be sure they will know about their actions in advance. Those truisms were an essential part of the defense of Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley.

In this dreadful case, the then-15-year-old's parents ignored his mental distress and obsession with violence. Instead, they gifted him with a new gun and took him for target practice just a few days before he killed four fellow students and injured seven others. On the morning of the shooting, a teacher found a drawing from Ethan showing a gun and a person bleeding along with the scrawled phrases, "The thoughts won't stop. Help me," "blood everywhere" and "My life is useless."

At an emergency school conference that day, the parents neglected to mention the purchase of the gun that their son would shortly thereafter retrieve from his backpack and use against his classmates. They had similarly brushed off an alarming call from school officials the day before, when a teacher observed Ethan searching for ammunition online.

Jennifer Crumbley testified in her own defense, saying, with a stunning lack of awareness, "I've asked myself if I would have done anything differently, and I wouldn't have." Her defense attorney told jurors in closing arguments the case was "dangerous" for parents everywhere: "Can every parent really be responsible for everything their children do, especially when it's not foreseeable?"

The answer to the attorney's question is an obvious no, but she asked the wrong question.

In convicting Crumbley of all charges on Feb. 6, jurors determined the fatal shooting was more than foreseeable. Any competent adult should have seen it coming and taken steps to prevent it, which Crumbley failed to do. Her husband, James, is due for a separate trial beginning in March and has pleaded not guilty. Their son is serving life in prison without parole.

The Crumbley case brings to mind that of Robert Crimo Jr., father of the accused Highland Park, Ill., parade shooter. His son, Robert III, who has pleaded not guilty and faces a trial later this month, was an adult, not a child, when seven were killed and dozens injured in the north suburb on Independence Day, July 4, 2022.

The elder Crimo pleaded guilty to misdemeanors for helping his son obtain a firearm owner's ID card, despite the same sort of red flags that marked the Crumbley case. While prosecutors said he was the first parent in Illinois to be held criminally responsible for the actions of their progeny, Crimo received an absurdly light 60-day sentence and walked out of jail after serving just half of it because of good behavior while in custody.

Can we all agree that teeing up a mass murder is a serious crime that deserves a stiff penalty? And can we further stipulate that when parents actively participate by providing a gun their child could not otherwise legally obtain, they deserve a very stiff penalty?

Plenty of Americans don't think so. To the right-wing extremists who eye practically any gun control with suspicion, the Crumbley case is perceived as an attack on the freedom to bear arms without undue restrictions. If Ethan had stabbed his classmates to death, the thinking goes, would Michigan blame the parents for providing access to kitchen knives?

The left, meantime, blithely downplays, and sometimes undermines, parental rights in matters such as education, then rediscovers them when it comes to guns.

Those competing ideas about parental responsibility will no doubt factor in when Crumbley is sentenced at a first-of-its-kind hearing scheduled for April 9. Unlike Illinois and many other states, Michigan has no separate statute against adults providing guns to minors. Crumbley was found guilty of a less specific charge, involuntary manslaughter, one count for each of the four children her son killed at Oxford High School.

As there's no precedent for the case in Michigan, there's no telling what sentence Oakland County Judge Cheryl Matthews will impose. She has plenty of latitude. The penalty could range from probation — which is unlikely — to 60 years if she hands down the maximum of 15 years per count, and orders them to run consecutively (one penalty after the other), rather than concurrently (when penalties are served at the same time).

In practice, Michigan judges impose an average sentence for involuntary manslaughter of between five and seven years per count, according to a local defense firm's research. In cases involving multiple victims, judges are more likely to order the penalties to run consecutively, so that each victim is individually represented.

We believe a light sentence, as in the Crimo case, would send a terrible message. Keeping guns secure from children and the mentally disturbed is common sense, and failing to do so can't go unpunished. Still, prosecutors trying to do justice in the Crumbley case had to stretch laws that didn't fit the circumstances. They argued Ethan should be sentenced as an adult responsible for his actions, for example, while also charging his parents for failing to supervise their minor child. That makes no logical sense whatsoever.

It's also ridiculous that Michigan and some other states have failed to pass legislation that authorizes criminal charges against adults who give minors unsupervised access to guns. Those adults bear responsibility for any violence that results, and they must be held accountable. Even in states that have those laws, the penalties vary drastically, and a more consistent national standard is urgently needed.

Ethan Crumbley's parents bought him a gun on the Friday after Thanksgiving, took him for target practice over the weekend and ignored obvious warning signs as he proceeded to execute four classmates on the next Tuesday.

We are willing to stand up for parents' rights in most circumstances.

But when it involves handing an unstable teenager a gun? No excuses.