The Santa Fe school shooter used his father’s guns. Could his father be punished?

The teenager who murdered eight students and two teachers at Santa Fe High School in Texas didn’t have to go to great lengths to find the guns that fueled his rampage. The shotgun and the .38 caliber pistol he took to school belong to his father and were available to him right at home.

It’s the latest mass shooting at a school where a student used a parent’s gun (or guns) — a trend that’s simmered quietly in the background, even as politicians and school districts grapple with what to do about these violent acts.

But Texas has laws designed to force parents to keep their firearms out of their kids’ hands. Prosecutors can charge parents even if a child doesn’t ever fire the gun or cause an injury; just allowing access to firearms is a violation. (However, in the case of Santa Fe High School, the shooter was already 17. The law applies only to children under 17 years old.)

As Texas begins to grapple with how to stop mass shootings — particularly in schools — politicians are struggling to come up with solutions that will curb violence while fitting into the state’s gun culture and commitment to the Second Amendment. The idea of holding parents responsible is already on the books (though rarely enforced) and could be one option to engage gun rights advocates who also support the conservative value of parental responsibility. So why aren’t these laws more popular with conservatives?

Texas has one of the broadest child-access prevention laws in the country

Under Texas law, parents whose children gain access to their lawfully owned guns can be held criminally liable. Per Texas Penal Code 46.13, “Making a Firearm Accessible to a Child”:

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