One should grant enormous leeway to anyone whose child has just died. Like, all the leeway. There’s just very little room for judgment of the words and actions of a person in that terrible, terrible situation.
And yet, even by that standard, the words and actions of Clayton and Elizabeth Brumby after Clayton accidentally shot his 14-year old son Steven in the neck—killing him—were mind-bogglingly, incomprehensibly galling, bordering on sociopathic in tone and content.
First, some context: Steven Brumby was the fourth of seven children. His mom, Elizabeth, is around 50; his dad, Clayton, is 64. They’re super religious. As you can probably guess, the kids were all homeschooled.
On Sunday, July 3, Clayton took his 12-year old daughter and his 14 and 24-year old sons to the shooting range at High Noon Guns—the kind of place that names itself after an idiom denoting the time of day when enemies meet to shoot each other.
Also, the kind of place that posts memes like this one that encourages fun with guns for kids of all ages!
Anyway, back to the Brumbys…
So Clayton, who is “a church sign salesman and religious book author,” takes his kids to the gun range for some family fun with firearms. He steps up to take his turn feeling like a man and some bullshit happens with a hot shell casing and the next thing you know, 14-year old Steven has taken a bullet to the jugular.
Now, the first thing you need to know is that there is a discrepancy between Clayton’s story and the one given by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office after reviewing surveillance video. Specifically, Clayton says the bullet ricocheted off the ceiling and hit Steven, while the Sheriff says Clayton “inadvertently pointed the firearm directly behind him and accidentally fired.”
The discrepancy isn’t one that will make a difference in terms of charges being filed or not filed (they likely won’t be)—and that’s what makes it kind of weird. Why within a day of his son’s death was he was exerting any energy to minimize the magnitude of the error that killed him? As if it’s somehow less his fault that his son is dead if the gun was pointed up rather than “directly behind him?”
That weirdness might have been easy to brush off if not for the downright terrifying fucking coldness with which he spoke of the incident to CNN. For starters, he immediately felt the need to defend the gun, saying:
The gun didn’t kill my boy. I did. Every round in the gun is your responsibility. When it fires you need to stand to account for it it. That’s what I’ve spent the last two days doing, accounting for my operating error.
But mostly, “the gun didn’t kill my boy?” Well, okay, but yes it did. Fine, it doesn’t have a mind of its own and a will, but it is an instrument designed for one purpose—namely, to fire metal projectiles that are designed to tear apart flesh and bone. But whatever, all I’m saying is just, maybe now is not the time to stand up for the innocence of the gun as though you’re worried it’ll get its feelings hurt. Maybe now is the time to just be inconsolable about the actual human being who is dead rather than worried about the poor little semi-automatic Ruger.
His desire to stand up for the gun stems from his simple-minded misconception that people like me blame gun. We don’t. We blame humans for thinking guns are toys, for fetishizing guns, for using them to compensate for other shortcomings, for getting so many innocent children killed by them. We think guns are dangerous machines that stupid civilians shouldn’t be fucking around with.
It gets worse:
That’s why yesterday was so stupid and freaky on me because the gun is supposed to be pointed down range at all times. My first thought was ‘That was pretty stupid of me. I should’ve put the gun down.’
Pretty stupid? You sound like you’re talking about accidentally leaving the gate open so that the dog got out and you had to spend an hour looking for it. You sound like a man who, at worst, got caught cheating on his wife with a gay prostitute because he butt dialed her while taking his pants off. You do not sound like a man who took his children to a gun range and shot one of them in the neck, killing him.
“I can’t fix this,” Brumby told CNN. “It’s just a great loss but thankfully we’ll see him someday. I have a feeling he’s on a great lake out there.”
But perhaps the most offensive thing I saw all day was the GoFundMe page set up by Steven’s mother, Elizabeth, asking for “generous gifts and donations [to] help with the expenses the family is now faced with.” The original goal was $50,000.
She’s all like: Hey y’all…my husband just shot my 14-year old son in the neck with our 12-year old daughter’s .22 semi-automatic Ruger SR22 (for some reason he wasn’t using his own 9mm Glock). So do you think we could get about fifty thousand dollars to, like, lift him up to Jesus and stuff? Thanks, interwebs!🙏🇺🇸😇 #blessed
The goal has since been lowered to $10,000. And guess what? People are actually fucking donating (the total currently stands at $15,250) probably because she had the good sense to let them know that Steven was one of them.
He was passionate about his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and dedicated his life to sharing his hope with everyone he met. The families’ only comfort is knowing that He is communing with the heroes of his faith and rejoicing in paradise.
Right. We don’t want our tax dollars going to those darkies killing each other in the hood but we’ll happily fork over more than these lily-white homeschoolers even asked for when they accidentally shoot their own kids.
I’ll bet dollars to donuts these people preach personal responsibility and self-reliance all day long when it comes to other people. Now they’d like your help with the “expenses the family is now faced with.” How about we help by taking away either some of your kids or all of your guns? That’s the kind of help I’d be happy to give.
Anyway, congratulations, Clayton and Elizabeth Brumby. You have pulled off the impossible. You have made it more-or-less impossible to empathize with the parents of a recently-dead child. You are lunatics who probably shouldn’t have procreated once, let alone seven times. But at least you have spares, right? So whatever you do, don’t go and do anything desperate like selling any of those precious guns to pay for Steven’s burial costs.