When a 12-year-old boy is charged with eight counts of attempted first-degree murder, you want to think it’s an aberration.
You want to think, at that age, boys are still obsessed with video games and junk food.
But increasingly we are seeing stories in which the accused aren’t even old enough to buy a ticket to a PG-13 movie.
In 2015, a 12-year-old boy living in Omaha, Neb., was the subject of a manhunt in the shooting death of a 30-year-old. The boy’s 17-year-old brother and a 15-year-old friend also were arrested, charged with first-degree murder.
This past week, a 12-year-old boy was among three youths charged with firing “several” shots at two on-duty Chicago cops.
It’s a miracle that the officers were not wounded and that the bullets did not hit innocent bystanders.
Two of the accused were 17 years old — old enough to suffer the consequences for their bad decisions.
But no matter how “mannish” a 12-year-old boy might act, he still needs constant supervision and direction from a responsible adult.
Prosecutors said the police found two handguns,and 15 baggies containing suspected drugs in the stolen SUV that they say the boy stepped out of to fire at police officers.
The question on everyone’s mind, of course, is: How the heck did a 12-year-old get caught up in something like this?
If convicted, this child could be locked up until his 21st birthday.
Though the boy’s mother and relatives were in court for a hearing in the case, they declined to answer reporters’ questions — and that’s their right.
Frankly, most people are going to just assume this is another example of an unsupervised child running amuck in the neighborhood.
If that’s the case, this latest atrocity touches on an underlying issue that most of us have a difficult time talking about: the role that parental responsibility has in reducing violence.
A law targeting repeat offenders that was pushed by police Supt. Eddie Johnson and Mayor Rahm Emanuel will address the hardcore repeat gun offenders who are beyond the help of jobs programs and mentoring programs. Even so, legislators whose districts include communities under siege by gang and drug-related violence were conflicted, arguing that increasing sentencing won’t deter criminals from committing crimes.
Still, if the neighborhood thugs (and everyone knows who they are) keep getting locked up on gun charges and are back on the street within days, what does that say to a 12-year-old?
If he is growing up in a fragile family or is in the child-welfare system, then there is a real possibility that older gang members will try to recruit him specifically for the purposes of carrying a gun.
I’m talking about what I know. A gang tried to recruit my adopted son when he was 15. The first thing the gang asked him to do was to carry a gun, which, thank God, he refused to do.
It took a combination of painful reflection, tough love and swift action to wrestle him away from the gang influence.
Unfortunately, most parents don’t want to accept the blame when their kids go astray. I know I didn’t.
But who else is there to blame?
Taking responsibility for the children one brings into this world shouldn’t be considered a racist or conservative point of view.
After all, when a child is repeatedly picked up for curfew violations, it is the parent who pays the fine.
If parents had to suffer the consequences for their child’s criminal behavior, there would be a lot fewer children getting arrested for serious crimes.