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Kayla Rolland’s Death Exposes Societal Problems, Not a Gun Problem

Kayla Rolland is the youngest victim of a school shooting in the nation’s history. The 6-year-old who killed her execution-style in front of their first-grade classmates never faced charges. Prosecutors correctly concluded Dedrick Owens truly was too young and ignorant to know better when he shot her to death at Buell Elementary in Flint, Michigan, on Feb. 29, 2000.

Owens now goes through life with the infamy of being the nation’s youngest school shooter – one who never paid a penalty for his actions. Some 20 years later, anti-gun activists are using Kayla Rolland’s death to blame guns and gain support for passing new anti-gun laws.

Owens used a .32-caliber pistol he found in a shoebox inside a Flint drug house apparently run by his uncle his friends. His mother left him their nine days earlier after getting evicted from their Flint apartment. Apparently, there was no father involved in Owen’s life, and the welfare system wholly failed him and Kayla Rolland by extension.

Societal influences spurred by incredibly bad social welfare policies at the local, state, and federal levels directly caused Kayla’s death. Nothing encourages and enables poverty and the very social situations in place that led to the shooting death of Kayla Rolland. Even the shooter, a child who clearly had been exposed to very bad influences, is an obvious victim of incredibly bad policy.

When people rely on taxpayer dollars to raise their offspring, society relieves them of their inherent responsibility as parents. That responsibility is to provide for your children and teach them right from wrong. Instead, as District Judge John L. Conover said regarding the mother’s negligence at the time, “Who feeds them? Who clothes them? Who disciplines them? Who nurtures them? Who says, ‘I love you,’ before they go to bed and when they get up? No one.”

When Owens shot Rolland, he ordered her to stand up in front of her classmates, told her he didn’t like her, and shot her dead. That is a classic example of a cold-blooded, execution-style slaying. At the time, Owens was staying with his 8-year-old brother, a 22-year-old uncle, and another 19-year-old in what local police and media described as a “drug house.”

Owens found the gun in a shoebox that contained loose changed and candy. “That’s absolutely as negligent as you get. What in the world did the defendant expect to happen?” Conover said while presiding over the case.

All adults wound up facing charges for guns and drug violations stemming from the case. Owens’ mother was charged with negligence. The gun’s owner, Jamelle James, served 2.5 years in prison. The other adults have been in and out of the court system ever since.

Clearly, society and the welfare system enabled the entire situation, not a gun. Yet, instead of making significant changes to how we handle children born into poverty and hopeless situations, people blame the gun. They want to outlaw guns, while leaving the societal mechanisms in place that created the entire matter.

Instead of teaching safe gun ownership with NRA classes in public schools, the anti-gunners prefer raising children in poverty and enabling hopeless situations that lead to repeated shootings in public schools. Reforming the welfare system and teaching safe firearms handling are far more effective solutions than repeating bad history.


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