In a Town Like Your Own
I was a sophomore in high school when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered Columbine High School and killed fifteen people, including themselves. I would have the same feeling on that day as I did in my second year of graduate school after the Virginia Tech Massacre and most recently, as a 29 year old working woman after the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting. I can describe the feeling as one of deprivation in my chest, with my heart sinking and my lungs needing oxygen. A quiet, calm sadness fills me. It's difficult for me to feel anything but sadness and confusion, not anger or desire for retribution, when this happens.
How anyone could ever take the life of another is beyond what I can conceive. The implications are unimaginable. Perhaps the gun men, the murderers, did not think about it. Maybe they lacked empathy. It seems in most cases of school shootings, the motives are self-involved. What else could they be but instances of ego-centrism in mass killings? The shooters often did not know the majority of the people they were killing personally. They used victims to symbolize of the qualities that they hated or that which hurt them. Innocent students were emblems of bullying, social circles, the wealthy and elite, the murderers' own failures, or whatever the case may be.
Pronounced histories of mental instability permeate the gun men's profiles. This hurts me more than I can say. The signs were there. These people were dangers to themselves and others. Seung-Hui Cho, gun man for the Virginia Tech Massacre, had a long and detailed past in psychological disruption. Though it was noted on multiple occasions, he was only suggested out-patient treatment and counselling of which no follow up by mental health professionals was issued. It is difficult in our system today to take any precautionary measures before an eruption. With out-patient care being touted as a cure-all in mental health, and prisons housing 1.25 million of our psychologically damaged, something has to change.
I agree with many that guns do not kill people. People kill people. However, it is a problem when so many can access firearms so easily. Why many civilians would need guns not meant for hunting, guns meant for killing people, is beyond me. We know that homes with guns are much more likely to harm a family member than an intruder.
I believe that there are safe methods to gun ownership, that many do not practice. Guns should be locked up. They should never be left loaded. My father is a gun enthusiast and he practices these principles. Though I have no intention of ever shooting another person or animal, I do know how to use a gun in case of an emergency. I also never had access to firearms growing up, even though they were always in my home. The only time I have ever been able to shoot is in a secured area with the direct supervision of my father.
When it comes to death of this nature, I feel as helpless as I did when I was fifteen years old, sitting in the blue and white desk that was too big for me, my feet dangling, not able to reach the floor. I am dumbfounded because I cannot understand this. I cannot understand murder. I see my Spanish teacher's face, unusually concerned and aged, asking us to get help if we need it, to not resort to violence. These pleas came from a woman we had known to be only concerned with teaching Spanish and making girls with exposed shoulders change into school-appropriate clothing.
A tremor passes through me when I think that it could have been University of Vermont, and not Virginia Tech where entryways into classroom buildings were barricaded and a gun man went from classroom to classroom on the second floor, shooting students in the head. I could have been like the many graduate students murdered.
Now, as many of my friends, family, and colleagues are having children or planning their families, the second worst school shooting is named. Today, I held my co-worker's little boy on my lap. I fed him french fries and thought about my future nieces and nephews. Later, I read the death toll at Sandy Hook Elementary. Twenty-seven victims were listed, their names and ages given. The children were six and seven years old. Every life is so important and should be valued, but to have the capability to murder children, innocent children, is immoral and absurd.
Newton, Connecticut. Blacksburg, Virginia. Littleton, Colorado. These are not poor cities filled with drugs and corruption. They are nice places that never experienced tragedy. There is no reason for these events to have occurred in these places. This should serve as warning for everyone, that if our treatment of guns and the mentally ill does not change, that this could happen to you or someone you hold dear. Action is urgently needed before we feel the direct pain of our neighbors slain.
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