Once again riveting pictures and graphic accounts of another tragedy
– kids shooting kids in their schools — takes front stage in our
media. I, as a parent and a grandparent, along with millions of
Americans feel helpless in the face of such insanity. It is impossible
to comfort families who have lost one of their own children. It is
impossible to comfort families who have lost a parent. It is impossible
to comfort a community that is deeply wounded by such senseless tragedy.
But somehow we must begin. At the time of the Oregon school shooting
a year ago, I grieved not only for all those innocent people affected by
Kip Kinkel’s actions but also for his parents, who had tried valiantly
to save their son, only to be repaid by being victims of his insanity.
They were teachers who, if they had lived would have suffered
immeasurably as a result of their son’s murderous rampage. Their search
for answers to their son’s problems ended in their untimely death.
In an effort to cope with such horrific tragedy, people look for
scapegoats. In a CNN online poll
which asks, “Who or what is
most responsible for school violence?” The most popular response is
parents. So suggestions are made to enact legislation to punish the
“responsible adult” for children’s aberrant behavior.
In addition, there are calls for new firearms’ laws. Laws, which
would turn any gun owner into a criminal, whose guns are stolen and then
used illegally. These are the same measures that were suggested after
two youngsters in Arkansas broke into their grandfather’s home and stole
the firearms they used to shoot their classmates and a teacher. Some
people in their zeal for easy answers believe that sending the
grandfather or the parents to prison will somehow stop the evil misdeeds
of the children.
But the question after all is, how do we as individuals and as a
society prevent or address evil intentions and evil actions — evil
actions that are perpetrated by evil people, whether children or adults?
After all, evil deeds were committed 30 years ago — but not as many by
children. So what has happened? Liberal attorney Gerry Spence appearing
on Larry King the night of the Littleton tragedy gave us a clue. His
comment was “Larry, we hear people amazed and astounded at what
happened, but maybe we ought not to be amazed and astounded. I mean,
aren’t these the seeds of the violence that we plant in this country?”
Guns laws were almost non-existent and guns were certainly more
readily available when my generation and my children’s generation were
in school. Yet, incidents such as Jonesboro, Springfield, and Littleton
were extremely rare. My nightmare was grade school bullies pelting me
with acorns as I ran the gauntlet from the bus stop to my home. The
acorns stung and raised red welts, but somehow it never occurred to me
that the appropriate response was to threaten them with my Red Ryder BB
gun, let alone anything more deadly.
I believe it is a fact that evil exists. I also believe that Eric
Harris, and Dylan Klebold were evil. I also believe that just as dark is
the absence of light, evil is the absence of morality. Ronald Federici,
a psychologist who specializes in treating violent adolescents, states,
“There’s an epidemic of people who think they have permission to be
violent.” Federici also makes the point that bad kids have no fear of
punishment. “They figure they can get away with it by working the
psychiatric route or that they can get out of jail time. They don’t fear
the criminal justice system. They are fearless of authority.” Sounds
just like what we have learned about Harris, Klebold, Kinkel, and other
juvenile murderers. The fact is that current law against bringing guns
and bombs to school did not deter these assassins. So how does society
try and prevent even more of this type of carnage in our society?
First let’s recognize that evil exists. It can’t be blamed away with
psychobabble and rationalization. And when we find it, we must stop the
evil before it spreads. Secondly, we must stop “planting the seeds of
violence.” Finally, we must stop fertilizing those seeds should they
find a fertile field. Too often the telltale signs of violent and
anti-social behavior are very visible. We seem to celebrate diversity
with an anything goes attitude until
something goes wrong. Our leaders write books about
villages caring for children and then the community turns a deaf ear
when one child complains about the aberrant activities of others. Our
teachers are asked to perform Herculean tasks and then are afraid to
speak up for fear of losing their jobs or being sued by angry parents.
Yet safety is everyone’s responsibility. After the Jonesboro tragedy
I stated on NBC that every threat should be taken seriously and acted
upon by the authorities. Now, schools and law enforcement are coming
together and doing just that. In the wake of the Littleton massacre,
copycat crimes have spread to every corner of the country and are
further terrorizing parents and children. From
Seattle to Florida and from Canada to Texas authorities are working hard
at preventing more carnage by detaining, interrogating, and even
arresting juveniles seeking their few minutes of fame. And that is
appropriate and very necessary.
Yet, here goes Clinton and the anti-gun lobby using the tragedy to
whip up the media to help pass more restrictive laws regarding guns and
bombs. You can’t read a newspaper, watch television, or go onto the
Internet without the ubiquitous polls asking questions such as: “Who or
what is most responsible for school violence?” or “Should the U.S. pass
laws seeking to keep guns out of the hands of juveniles?” One of the
latest polls from MSNBC
makes every respondent choose a gun control legislative proposal without
allowing an alternative such as “none of the proposed legislative
Many columnists, including Maureen
and Andrea Peyser
are already on
the offensive against NRA and its 2.7 million members. Peyser’s column
entitled, “Kids’ Corpses Silently Shame the NRA” on April 21, 1999 asks
the question: “How about lobbying to make it illegal for anyone under 18
or 21 to possess a gun?” Well, Andrea and all you Internet pollsters
here’s your answer: Current federal law already prohibits anyone under
the age of 21 to purchase a handgun, while the purchaser of a rifle or
shotgun must be over 18. But if she knew the answer, then her column
wouldn’t have the same fervor. After all, the federal and state laws are
very clear on guns in schools: THEY ARE PROHIBITED!
When bad things happen it is human nature to try and affix blame.
Depending upon the perspective of the person the blame is being assigned
to the media, movies, TV shows, video games, Marilyn Manson, and guns.
And to date only one of these has ever been legislatively persecuted –
guns. By focusing attention on inanimate objects, the easy but
ineffective fix, we will ignore the real issue: personal and moral
responsibility for one’s actions. It’s time we began teaching our
children about safety, responsibility and the freedom that follows them.