Law can’t deal with all issues

By Jayson Jacoby / The Baker City Herald

One trait common among lawmakers is the confidence that they can solve every problem by passing a law.

The futility of this notion is of course obvious to anyone with even a passing knowledge of human history.

Murder, for instance, has been a crime in most parts of the world for centuries.

Yet people keep killing each other, and in pretty much every country.

Probably no type of tragedy prompts more proposals from lawmakers than a fatal shooting at a school.

An example happened earlier this month at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, just east of Portland.

Jared Michael Padgett, 15, took a semi-automatic rifle and a handgun to the school, where he shot and killed 14-year-old classmate Emilio Hoffman.

When police arrived, Padgett went into a bathroom and shot and killed himself.

Two days later, state Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Democrat from Portland, told reporters she thinks Padgett's parents should be criminally responsible for Hoffman's death.

Although police said Padgett's parents had secured the guns he used - the security measures they used have not been publicly disclosed - the boy was able to defeat those measures.

"If a kid gets a hold of guns and takes them to school, those guns weren't secured," Burdick said.

We agree with Burdick on that point.

But only on that point.

We believe it's illogical to contend, as Burdick does, that passing a law holding parents criminally responsible, in situations such as the Padgetts', would in any way reduce the likelihood of future shootings, whether at schools, malls or elsewhere.

Think of it this way: If Burdick's law were in effect, would the possibility of criminal charges be a larger concern for the Padgetts than the reality that their son murdered a classmate and then killed himself?

Proponents might well argue that the prospect of facing prison time would give parents added reason to take precautions such as safeguarding their guns.

But this argument isn't compelling, either, because it too relies on the notion that parents are more concerned about their own legal problems than about protecting their children.

The real problem, of course, is that a 15-year-old boy decided to kill innocent people, and himself.

The only way to reduce the incidence of tragedies such as happened last week in Troutdale is to deal with people such as Jared Padgett.

We're skeptical that any law can accomplish that.

Burdick's idea to punish the parents of dead children certainly won't.

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The Baker City Herald
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