What's the worst thing a parent can go through? It has to be the death of their child, right? It's something none of us can bear thinking about. But imagine it happens to you. Now imagine it was your fault.
That's exactly what dad William Brumby is trying to come to terms with right now. He and three of his seven kids went to the High Noon Gun Range in Sarasota, Florida, on Sunday, to learn gun safety and "how to protect a family." That's nothing rare in the U.S., but what is rare is how this family outing ended. A "freak accident" left Brumby's 14-year-old son, Stephen, dead.
In an interview, Stephen's brother David, 24, revealed that his dad was firing "just a little semi-automatic pistol" when a spent shell casing bounced off the wall and fell into the back of Brumby's shirt. His immediate reaction was to try to brush it off, and in doing so he pulled the hand holding the gun up and inadvertently fired it at the ceiling. The bullet ricocheted into Stephen.
The Sarasota County Sheriff's Office said in a statement that after reviewing video footage and witness statements, they concluded that the shooting at the High Noon Gun Shop was not intentional.
The public reaction to this tragic accident has been mixed. Not everyone has responded with words of comfort and support. Many people have accused Brumby of being negligent, irresponsible and reckless. Some have even gone so far as to demand that he be charged with manslaughter.
Talk about kicking a man when he's down. Whatever your views on guns, gun safety or guns around children, William Brumby did not intend to kill his son.
Why do people seem to get such a kick out of pointing the finger at parents whose kids suffer tragic — even fatal — accidents? There was a similar backlash following the high-profile case of British child, Madeleine McCann, who disappeared from her bed in a Portuguese holiday resort in May 2007. For every person who wept for her devastated parents, another took the chance to blame them for what had happened. They had left their three children unsupervised in their hotel room while they ate dinner with friends in a restaurant 50 meters away.
Chances are you wouldn't leave your children alone in a hotel — even if you were checking on them regularly, like the McCanns did. Perhaps you wouldn't take your teenage son to a shooting range — even if you were an experienced, careful gun owner, like William Brumby. But sometimes terrible, terrible things happen to parents who love their kids more than anything.
Brumby will be going through all kinds of hell right now. He held his hands up and said, "I killed my child." Those are words no parent ever wants to say. Brumby will never get over the loss of his child, and he'll never get over the guilt of being responsible for his death. Surely this makes him a man who deserves some compassion.
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