Friday, May 18, 2018 in Santa Fe, Texas, once again our nation watched the horror of a school shooting as the ambulances carried away the wounded, and the police checked teenagers’ backpacks after the fact. The dead lay inside the building, unseen and now forever unheard. Ten killed, ten more injured; among them, a substitute teacher killed and a school resource officer critically injured. There was a slight twist to this attack today. There were homemade bombs involved. The police haven’t said any went off, but they found several different types, including pipe bombs and at least one pressure cooker bomb.
The killer was arrested. Some reports say he was injured, but he had his initial court appearance today and we watched him stand, handcuffed, at the court window and sign the papers. He didn’t look injured. He didn’t look like a killer, either. He looked like a seventeen year old boy who wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.
Before I go any further, let me say that I’m not trying to drum up sympathy for the killer. I’m simply describing him to make a point. Social media went crazy all day, describing him as a Nazi lover using an AR-15, an introvert, a loner, an experienced gun user, and a person who wore black trench coats daily, even in the heat, and carried a duffel bag. Some of these things appear to be true, but according to police, they found no evidence of his association with any Nazi group, or any particular fascination with terrorist organizations at all, for that matter. He has a few different patches sown on his coat and a picture or two on Face Book showing the coat, the symbols it bore, and a tee shirt that was lettered with “BORN TO KILL” in bold letters. The rest of his pictures were pretty basic, normal looking stuff you would expect to see on a teen’s page.
WHAT CAUSED IT?
So far in 2018, more children in school have been murdered than soldiers in our military. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2018/05/19/mark-kelly-washington-post-analysis-santa-fe-shooting-sot-ac.cnn
We might find out what caused this shooter to flip out, or we might not. He didn’t use the weapon of choice that most shooters use these days. He didn’t have an AR-15. He had an old-fashioned Revolver (six-shooter) and a shotgun. And bombs. The guns belonged to his dad. So this isn’t about banning assault weapons – at least not this particular case – but it is about the need to stop this irrational behavior in our young people.
Was this killer mentally ill? I kind of think that being a teenager is a form of mental illness, with all the insecurities, uncertainties, and confusing emotions, hormonal and otherwise. It’s definitely a time of strife hitting people who often aren’t mature enough to know how to deal with it. And I think that anyone who thinks there’s some kind of solution to their problems, or some kind of worthy revenge in killing others is not mentally stable. But I’m not a doctor or a psychologist. I don’t know if this killer would fit the label of clinically mentally ill. No matter what people said on social media today, this kid played football, was fairly good at it, had been on the honor roll a couple of years earlier, and wasn’t known to be antisocial in any particular way. The trench coat thing was weird, but hey… kids do weird things.
COULD IT HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?
My concern is how do you stop someone who shows no outward signs of being hostile or violent? How would teachers know, or friends know, or even his parents know? Often there are signals that we disregard, but sometimes there really isn’t a strong forewarning. So how do we fight that?
Here’s an idea: Maybe his parents could have made it next to impossible for anything like this to happen. What would have happened if the guns in his house were locked up in a safe, and only his parents had the key?
Why should they do that? Because it’s the responsible thing to do. It’s not because they don’t trust him, or that they have reason to think he might be emotionally unstable. It’s for the same reason we don’t give the car keys to a 14 yr. old, even if he knows how to drive. The maturity level to use good judgment just isn’t there, yet. Sure, some kids mature sooner than others. Some are more responsible. But why take the chance? Why lay out the temptation? Just set a rule and stick by it. Guns belong in a safe. Kids without a driver’s license don’t get keys to the car, and kids without a license to carry a gun don’t get access to the safe. Oh wait… there are no gun user licensing requirements. There are no safety classes required. The guns don’t even have to be registered, in most cases. And what about the bombs?
WHO IS RESPONSIBLE?
Let’s step back for a minute. Many people say that somehow when we were all younger, things just weren’t like this. There’s some truth in that. But what was different?
When I was a teen, my parents were in and out of my room so often that I couldn’t have accumulated enough materials to make a single pipe bomb. – Mom: “What’s the piece of pipe doing on your closet floor? Me: “Oh, it’s just for a science project…” Mom: “Oh, what’s it going to be? How does it work? What else do we need to gather up for it?” Me: “Never mind, I think I’m just going to do a litmus test on something.” Now parents are either too busy to keep track, or they’re afraid of “invading the space” of the child. More on that in a minute.
So this kid, it seems, had access to an empty trailer, and was maybe even living there – at 17 years old. This is where he built his bombs, albeit not very expertly, according to police. I don’t know if this trailer was on his family’s property, or just sitting vacant somewhere, but he had easy access and no one was questioning why a teenager was going in and out of it. Was it even legal for him to be there? Did his parents know he was hanging out there?
The definition of being a parent is “invading space.” You no longer have to change their diapers, dress them, or feed them, and you probably shouldn’t be doing their laundry. But you should be invading their space. You don’t have to be the warden, but you do need to know what’s going on. You should know their friends, know where they hang out, and have some idea of their interests and their feelings about things. There should be rules, and consequences for breaking them.
ARE THE PARENTS FAILING THEIR KIDS, OR ARE WE ALL FAILING THEM?
I’m not blaming the parents, but I am suggesting that parents may want to step up and do something immediately, to ensure their child doesn’t face a life in prison with no hope of parole, or even a worse fate.
Now, back to the guns. This is no longer a political issue, but a moral one. We know right from wrong by about the age of 7 years old. That doesn’t stop most of us from doing something we shouldn’t, now and then. I stole a candy bar when I was about 10 and got marched back to the store, where I had to admit what I’d done, apologize, and hand the manager the money to pay for what I’d taken. Then I had to do special chores to “earn” that money. I don’t remember what I had to do anymore, but I’ll never forget having to admit my theft and having to apologize. I don’t believe I’ve stolen a thing since that day. My point is, our kids know they aren’t supposed to mess with guns. They know that just shooting someone because they feel like it, is wrong. But they need parental guidance, at times, to overcome problems, to keep temptations out of reach, and to learn to make good judgments until they mature.
WE NEED SOLUTIONS AND WE NEED THEM NOW!
We all need the help of the law. The law isn’t there just to punish. It’s there to protect and guide, as well. I’ve talked to both Democrats and Republicans who agree that safety classes and usage licensing make sense in gun ownership. Some disagree on licensing firearms, but in reality, it helps them, too. If a gun is stolen, we can report that to the authorities, and with the use of a decent database, that gun could very well be returned to us in short order. Should that gun be used in a crime, the authorities can see that it was reported stolen, and maybe track down the criminal, thereby securing and returning our property. Coordinating that database with sales and ownership of guns is no more invasive than having a database of vehicle VIN numbers and licensed drivers.
Part of the problem could be addressed by a regulation requiring some kind of safe or locking device for firearms if there is anyone under the age of 21 living in the same home. In the event of a minor committing a crime with a gun that wasn’t locked up, the owner would be held responsible, according to the severity of the crime. That would mean that if a teenager took a gun to school and shot someone, the parent could be found guilty of some charge such as felony negligence or felony contempt of a law agreed upon when purchasing that firearm. This obviously doesn’t address all shooters, or all circumstances, but it may be a solution for impulsive actions, or to keep guns from being stolen. At least it’s a step we can take within our own rights. Whatever we come up with, it needs to be backed by law. But you don’t need a law to make this happen in your home today. I found prices ranging from under $25 to about $200 that would fit most people’s needs. Of course, you can certainly spend more on higher quality, or for display purposes. Whatever the case, I think we must all do something until we can get our representatives in Congress to recognize the pain our children are going through, or until we vote in representatives that understand that some regulations have value.
I’m open to other ideas, if anyone would care to propose something. -THE ENDRead More