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Is a shotgun an appropriate gift for a teenager? It's an interesting question raised by a lawsuit against the parents of an Eastern Washington teen

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Guns and Teens: Appeals Court Case Looks at Whether Parents Erred in Buying Shotgun for Their Son

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Is a shotgun an appropriate gift for a teenager? It's an interesting question raised by a lawsuit against the parents of an Eastern Washington teen who received such a gift, and then proceeded to use its butt to beat an asparagus farmer so badly that the older man suffered facial fractures and, he claims, permanent damage to one eye.

As a state Court of Appeals ruling yesterday relates, the beating occurred after 17-year-old Joey Eldering pulled his father's truck into the driveway of farmer Charles Schwartz around midnight in the spring of 2007. The Sunnyside teen was just trying to turn around, while looking for the home of a friend, but his wheels got stuck in the mud.

Schwartz, seeing the lights of the truck, drove out to help. But when he reached Eldering, he discovered that the teen had been drinking. So he did something that would make Mothers Against Drunk Driving proud: He pulled the kid's keys out of the ignition and told the boy he was going to call his parents to pick him up.

Eldering didn't like that. While the appeals court ruling say the teen and the farm differ on what happened next, sheriff's deputies have said that Eldering beat Schwartz for the next 10 minutes, using his fists and feet as well as the shotgun. The teen later pleaded guilty to second degree assault and received a nine-month sentence.

At issue here is whether Eldering's parents are at fault. Legally speaking, apparently not, according to the Appeals Court.

Schwartz and his wife failed to show that Steven and Linda Eldering could have foreseen their son's behavior, according to the court. In fact, the evidence shows what a weird outburst this was on the teen's part.

Then attending Sunnyside Christian High School, Joey Eldering was a virtually straight-A student and competitive swimmer. His disciplinary record at school showed nothing but the ordinary shenanigans of high schoolers: throwing paper wads, drinking at a party and squealing his tires when leaving the school's parking lot.

The senior Elderings got their son a shotgun to hunt, and he seemed to be approaching that activity the right way. He got a license and earned a hunter safety certificate.

Schwartz and his wife argue that his parents were nonetheless negligent in getting the teen a shotgun. They cited "widespread knowledge that any and all minors have a dangerous proclivity when it comes to guns."

"We know of no basis for the Schwartzes' generalizations about all minors," reads the ruling.

And yet, this case seems to offer a cautionary tale. Evidently, you never know what even star students can do when someone threatens to call their parents.

 
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