March 19, 2001
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It was just another schoolyard killing - it's a rare event after all, so no need for alarm. Unless, of course, you were one of the students, the family of the shooter or of the victims, any parent, any teenager, and any caring human being. Anyway, what can we do? We had the protective measures in place, a special program implemented in the wake of Columbine to prepare us all should such tragedy happen again. (It won't happen in our town, of course, but just in case, we'll be prepared...)
But then it does, despite our precautionary measures. So we haven't done enough? Let's do some more. At least then when the next shooting occurs, we'll feel better knowing we have done everything we could think of to try to prevent it, short of home schooling. (In any event, kids often get the parents' guns from home so they may actually be safer in the classroom...)
We can place metal detectors in every school. We already walk through a metal detector at the airport - just a minor inconvenience that gives us an incremental degree of comfort that our plane will not be brought down by some crazed terrorist. We accept the inconvenience, knowing our only choice is to not fly. So we fly, based on a calculated risk. (Imagine being a kid once again, and walking through a metal-detector portal to your institution of learning, every day, reassured by the calculated risk? Your choice is to take a risk or to not learn. Now go learn...)
We can impose a reward system to impede any would-be killers. If you hear of a classmate who is angry, depressed, wanting to hurt himself, wanting to hurt his parents, his classmates, please let an adult know. You'll be rewarded with a CD, or some sneakers, or a new pair of jeans, and the suspect will be questioned and referred to counseling and medicated to try to ward off any act of violence. Don't feel bad - it's all for the better good, even if occasionally you are wrong. (But who among us did not experience some degree of such emotions under the influence of the raging hormones and confusion of adolescence? Wasn't there a time when shooting our classmates was not the ultimate release to such turmoil...?)
We can impose the death penalty for minors -- surely this would deter them. Commit an adult crime, pay an adult price. Deterrence works so well for adults, it will work for children, too. (As if teenagers understand their mortality, the consequences of their actions, cause and effect...)
We could ask ourselves how we got into a position of considering the security of the classroom more than the quality of the education it provides. We could ask why we value our right to have a gun in the home more than we value the safety of the children who become its victims. We could explore how we teach this disregard for life, why children learn that the turbulence of adolescence is something to be calmed by violence, and not by compassion and time.
We continue to watch the tragedies unfold, hoping it won't happen again, it won't happen here, and it won't happen to us. But it will, it will, and it will, as we continue to live within a paradigm of 'civility' aptly expressed on http://www.guntruths.com/Myths/we_live_in_a_civilized_society.htm: "It is clear that guns, when morally deployed, preserve civilization on both an individual and a social scale. To ban guns would be to remove our last, and in many cases, only civilizing influence."
So in the end, what do we do?
We send flowers and balloons to the grieving schools and watch the anguish pass before us every night on television, each time telling a new and related story about a shooting here and a thwarted shooting there, and we feel pity but secret relief that it wasn't our child. And then it happens again, and we start all over, asking the same questions, imposing the same blame on a different wayward killer; doing nothing, doing something that doesn't work, being mere spectators of this newly defined sport of childhood life and death. Some civilizing influence those guns have, indeed.
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