Three More Dead Kids

I will apologize up front. This post is going to get a little ranty. I wrote The Girl in the Park because I could not get the murder of Jennifer Levin out of my mind. When I was young, the fact that a girl my age had been killed—by someone our age—was shocking to me. It is still shocking to me.

Even more shocking? Kids even younger than Jennifer Levin are now being murdered. In school. And we seem unable to do anything about it.

Since the shooting in Chardon, Ohio, we have three more children who went to school and never came home because some jerk was able to get his hands on a gun and make himself feel better by shooting people.

Those children’s names were Daniel Parmertor, Demetrius Hewlin, and Russell King. Two of them were 16. One was 17. I don’t want to call them young men, because that sounds as if they were old enough to get shot. As if they were in the military. They weren’t. They were in school. They were students. Children.

Does jerk sound harsh? I guess it does. Some people have suggested the Ohio shooter was bullied. A few days after the shooting, Marlo Thomas wrote in the Huffington Post: “Tragedy in Ohio: When the Bullied Strike Back.” Implying that the Ohio shooter finally rose up in a righteous rage and shot three people who had tormented him for years.

I applaud Ms. Thomas for fighting bullying. But I think she’s wrong about the Chardon shooter.

Ever since Columbine, we like to think that school shootings are a toxic byproduct of bullying. If you end bullying, you’ll end school shootings. Bullying is evil and must be fought as evil. It should not be fought because it causes kids to snap and start shooting people. Most school shooting cases are a lot more complicated than that. Recent evidence has indicated the Columbine shooters weren’t quite the victimized geeks portrayed in the media. (For more, read David Cullen’s excellent book, Columbine, or his piece in Slate.) And while some kids have said the Chardon shooter was bullied, there are many other factors to this story. He grew up in a violent home. He was in a school for kids  struggling with mental or emotional issues. He had recently broken up with his girlfriend, who may or may not have been dating one of the boys who was killed.

He had a lot of reasons to be angry. A lot of kids do. Even if you ended bullying tomorrow, you would not stop kids from feeling alone or angry or depressed. But we could do a lot more to stop those kids from getting guns and using them to express their rage and despair.

You are not allowed to have guns in Ohio until you are 21. This 17-year-old got a  .22-caliber handgun. How? He went to his grandfather’s barn and took it. His grandfather had taught him how to use it. And unfortunately, this very caring man never thought that his grandson would use it for anything but target practice and hunting in the woods. So he did not keep that gun in a locked, secure place.

Opponents of gun control say we have laws. Opponents of gun control say that only bad people misuse guns and the rest of us need guns to protect ourselves from those bad people. Some of them want more guns in schools, guns in daycare, guns in churches.

Does anyone else think this sounds like a nightmare? Does anyone think the way we handle guns now is making us safe?

According to a recent report from the Children’s Defense fund,  3,042 children and teens died from gunfire in America in 2007.

That’s one child every three hours.

Eight children every day.

Fifty-eight children every week.

Imagine your classroom. Imagine every three hours, one kid in your classroom dies. Then another, and another, and another. It wouldn’t even take a week for that classroom to be empty.

And almost six times as many children—17,523—suffered non-fatal gun injuries.

Is this what we want?

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7 thoughts on “Three More Dead Kids

  1. It isn’t what I want, and I come from a family that is pretty much pro-gun. Growing up, I didn’t see the point in them: all they did was destroy things and make noise. Granted, I was a kid, but that was my take. The adult me sees their necessity in non-civilian settings, but the in-home gun just strikes me as more of a liability than anything else. I can’t imagine how any gun owner must feel when a child (or adult) uses it to purposefully or accidentally hurt themselves or others. Same for those who sell guns and lobby so hard to make it easier and easier for people to get them — but they are able to make it work in their heads. Perhaps that is the bigger issue. (Or I am just babbling. Regardless, Mariah, I liked your post.)

    • Thanks so much for reading it. I absolutely see the point in non-civilian settings. (Although they didn’t do much good during the Gabrielle Giffords shooting.) And I can even accept that people want them in the home, like to hunt, shoot targets, etc. I know for a lot of people, it’s a sport. What I really can’t understand is why we can’t come together as country and admit we’re not doing enough to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people. I know we’re divided, but you’d think we could agree kids shouldn’t be killed in school.

  2. Allyn Hartstein says:

    This is so far away from being a rant as you could possibly get, you have done us all a service. These statistics were a scary revelation to me. Shocking that there is so little of this valuable and much needed press about gun safety and children as well as children and gun related deaths/injuries. Yet, you cannot go 10 minutes without full media bombardment about the “importance” of some Kardashian related event. Our “news” has adopted some very odd priorites…Bravo Mariah.

  3. I’m curious, have you read We Need to Talk About Kevin? I read it over the Christmas holidays (I know, cheery holiday fun!) and it was breathtaking. But also I really bought its premise that Kevin is just pretty much purely evil from day one. Certainly not all school shooters (or murderers generally) would fall into this classification but I think a largish number would. Some people are just evil and there’s not much you can do about them but hopefully mitigate the fallout.

    Speaking as someone who was also the butt of a great deal of bullying through 8th grade, it’s no excuse at all. I have a rather knee-jerk reaction when I see it and when Facebook suggests I might want to be friends with some of the bullies, but violence is never the answer. Never.

    • I agree: totally amazing book. (The movie wasn’t bad either.) That’s Cullen’s theory of Columbine. That Eric Harris was a psychopath and Dylan Klebold a depressed, suicidal kid who went along for the ride. I know the word “psychopath” gets thrown around way too much, but in that case, it did seem to fit more than bullied victim. I also remember being teased a lot for the way I talked. And yes, it made me angry and a few times I yelled that I was going to “kill someone.” But obviously, I never did. The bully excuse kind of reminds me of the violent video game theory. Is it a part of the problem? Possibly. Will getting rid of it stop the shooting? Don’t think so.

      Thanks for writing!

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