The kids were home alone. The adults were out for the evening. There was raucous boys-will-be-boys roughhousing.
And as happens with far too many shooting tragedies involving minors, at some point a firearm was playfully produced.
When it was all over, a 14-year boy lay dead and his 11-year old buddy was criminally charged with his death.
No adults have been charged so far in the shooting in Lake City, Florida. But 11-year old Carter Palm was placed under arrest by sheriff’s deputies and is in juvenile detention in Gainesville, charged in the death of his friend Jadon Vaughn.
Authorities said Jadon was visiting Wednesday night at the home of Carter and Carter’s 13-year-old brother while the adults were out for the evening. Carter and Jadon began roughhousing, eager to see if the family dog would respond to Carter being attacked.
After that, Carter got a pistol from his parents’ room, took out the magazine and pointed it at the teenager, deputies said. The gun went off, killing his friend.
“It’s one of those things where he had a great Christmas, got everything he wanted, life is going good, and then in a blink of an eye, everything changed,” Columbia County Sgt. Murray Smith told local media.
The brothers later invented a story that quickly unraveled, telling investigators that Jadon had tried to attack Carter with a knife.They later admitted that they put a kitchen knife near Jadon’s body after the shooting.
“This is a tragic and avoidable death,” Sheriff Mark Hunter said in a news release. “Our hearts are broken for both families; one has lost a son and the other will struggle with these events for the rest of their lives.”
Gun control activists said it was the latest case of unjust prosecution when children pull the trigger, although it is the adults who should be held accountable.
“A child being held responsible for the negligence of adult gun owners. Again,” tweeted Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, an anti-gun violence group.
Florida police charge an 11-year-old boy with manslaughter after his parents leave him home alone with loaded, unsecured guns. The parents have not been charged.
A child being held responsible for the negligence of adult gun owners. Again. https://t.co/jW8rPaUcJj
— Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) December 30, 2018
In Florida, it is against the law to leave an unsecured firearm within reach of a minor. Two firearms were recovered from the parents’ bedroom after the tragic shooting, officials said.
No charges have been filed against Carter’s parents, but officials said that that option is still on the table.
“In this area — it is a very rural area — it is hard to find a home that does not have a gun and that’s perfectly fine. I mean, that’s their right to have, but the law states you have to secure it if there’s children there that can access it,” Smith said.
“If you got a child at home, you need to make sure that the weapon is secured.”
News reports said Florida prosecutor are reviewing the case to see if the adults will face charges at some point for leaving the boys with unsecured firearms.
As ThinkProgress reported earlier this month, 2017 was the deadliest year for gun deaths since official statistics have been tabulated by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with nearly 40,000 lives lost.