Whom Can We Blame for the Michigan Shooting?

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When a first-grade student fatally shot classmate Kayla Rolland on Tuesday, people in Michigan — and around the country — scrambled to find someone to blame for the murder. As Genesee County, Mich., prosecutor Arthur Busch noted wryly Thursday, if this crime had taken place in 17 states other than Michigan, a case would have been opened against the owner of the gun used to kill Rolland. In those states, so-called Child Access Prevention laws hold gun owners criminally liable if children access their loaded guns to hurt themselves or others. In essence, the legislation is a gun-oriented, highly efficient version of a criminal negligence charge.

And since Busch had to find a logical scapegoat for Rolland's murder without the benefit of a Child Access Prevention law, he took the old-fashioned route. Thursday, Busch brought charges of involuntary manslaughter against 19-year-old Jamelle James, who lived in the same house as the young killer. Although Michigan recently adopted some of the nation's harshest juvenile penalties, a six-year-old is universally considered too young to understand the consequences of his behavior. Busch alleges that by making the gun available to the boy, James was "grossly negligent" and contributed to the delinquency of a minor — a misdemeanor that led, Busch claims, to the shooting, and charges of manslaughter. "This is a textbook example of criminal negligence," says TIME legal reporter Alain Sanders. "If you create a situation in which it's reasonable to expect that someone will get hurt, you can be held responsible for that injury."

Even if this case is resolved quickly, Arthur Busch seems determined to keep the larger issues in the spotlight. Speaking to the press Thursday, he lambasted the anti-gun control lobby, saying, "I hope this tragedy makes people realize that those guns you think make you safer make our communities more dangerous." He also appealed to lawmakers in no uncertain terms: "We need legislation in America that faults parents and others who keep guns in their homes — if something happens with one of those guns, they should be held responsible for their negligence."