handcuffsThe words "school shooting" never fail to send chills down my spine. But when a third grader is in critical condition because she was shot by the gun brought to school by a 9-year-old classmate, the horror gets ratcheted up to the top notch. That's exactly what happened at Armin Jahr Elementary in Bremerton, Washington this week.

And yet, what's happened since hardly seems like justice for little Amina Kocer-Bowman or the little boy who landed her in the hospital. While she recuperates in the Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, the boy who brought a loaded .45-caliber handgun into their classroom was taken to jail and he's awaiting a court decision that will determine whether he'll face felony charges. At 9 years old!

I understand this kid should be punished. But if there's ever a kid who needs a break, it's this little boy.

Take, for example, the actual "shooting." The boy did not pull the trigger on the gun. In fact, it never even left his bookbag. Police say the weapon discharged when the child forcefully dropped his bag on his desk, sending a bullet through 8-year-old Amina's abdomen and arm. It sounds tragic, but fairly accidental. Add to it the fact that this was the tail-end of the school day, when the kids were preparing to leave for the day, and this doesn't sound like a kid who brought a gun to school with the intention of shooting up the place.

And what about that gun? Police say he took it from his mother when he was staying with her over the weekend -- I say staying with her because she is not his guardian. In fact, neither of this little boy's parents has guardianship over their own child. That job once belonged to his grandmother, who had legally adopted him ... only to die a year ago. Now his uncle, Patrick Cochran, is his guardian.

Imagine, just for a moment, what that's been like for a kid: to have been shuffled among family members, to lack stability? To have a mom who apparently is so clueless she kept a loaded handgun where her 9-year-old could find it? In fact Jamie Lee Chaffin sounds like a real gem: court records show she's got convictions for drugs and forgery. His dad, Jason Cochran, has at least showed up in court to stand by his son, but even he's allegedly behind on child support.

This child hasn't had a childhood. There's no reason to steal his future by treating him like an adult in the eyes of the law already. The real adults -- the ones who let him get a gun, who let him bring it to school -- are to blame here.

What do you think is an appropriate punishment for this kid?

 

Image via The.Comedian/Flickr