A 19-year-old babysitter has been arrested after her 5-year-old charge found her gun and killed himself. The babysitter, Melissa Ringhardt, who had been living with the child's family, reportedly went to her room for a nap, and when she woke up, she found the toddler dead. Also in the home was a 6-month-old baby, who was found unharmed. This is one of those terrible gun tragedies we hear far too much about. And this is one that brings up a lot of hard questions.
Police say that Ringhardt left her gun on the coffee table in the living room while she went to take a nap. Apparently, she was scared of being in the house alone, so she had her gun near her. When she woke up, she said she couldn't find the child at first, but eventually found him shot in the head. The toddler is dead. Ringhardt has been charged with child endangerment.
From what I can tell, the age to legally own a gun in Texas (where this happened) is 21. So how did this teen get a gun? Did it belong to the parents? Why would the parents leave a teen to watch their two young children -- knowing she had a gun? Or maybe they had their gun locked up and she took it out because she felt scared?
Of course, you have to wonder about a babysitter who goes to sleep with a toddler and a baby in the house -- let alone one who leaves a loaded gun lying around. But these are teens. They don't always make the best decisions.
The teen should be held responsible for her actions, but what of adults who allow guns around their kids when they're not home? What kind of gun safety should adults teach teens who have access to a gun and are watching their children? Says the Chief Deputy:
People have the right to bear arms and with that comes great responsibility. If someone somehow puts a firearm in a place where a child is able to get that weapon, you've committed an offense.
It's unclear yet how much this poor boy's parents knew about the gun, but one thing is for sure: This child should have never had access to a gun. He was failed by the adults in his life.
Do you think that adults who aren't home still have a responsibility for what happens to their child with a babysitter?
Image via Orange County Texas Sheriff's Office