“What I know is my music gets blamed for school shootings” – Marilyn Manson
Here we go again…another school shooting in the United States. This latest shooting hits closest to home for me. It was at Huffman High School in Birmingham. I happen to be an alumnus of Huffman High School…Class of 2003, by the way. According to multiple reports, a 17-year-old senior girl was shot and killed after a gun that another student brought onto the campus was accidentally fired. It’s a really sad thing and my heart goes out to the family of the lost student, the school populous at Huffman, the surrounding community, and my city overall.
This is just the latest in a string of school shootings over the past month. On St. Valentine’s Day, a former student opened fire on students and teachers at a high school in South Florida, killing 17 and wounding about 20 others. That has been followed by school shootings on HBCU campuses in Georgia, Mississippi, and Virginia. There was also the shooting at Central Michigan last week. This phenomenon is out of control and it definitely needs to be addressed. But how?
I first learned of school shootings in October 1997, when Luke Woodham killed 3 people, including his mother and ex-girlfriend, in the Pearl High shooting. The shootings in Arkansas and Oregon the following spring were disturbing when I heard about them. Of course, there was the 1999 Columbine shooting in which Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed 13 and injured 21 others before killing themselves. The Columbine thing is a bit personal for me because in 2001, I was rumored to be planning something similar at Parker High after a secret admirer letter went completely wrong and it led to me fleeing to Huffman. Things seemed to cool off a little bit—at least in terms of major shootings—for a number of years until the shooting in Minnesota in 2005 or 2006, if I remember correctly. And shortly before I left for Tokyo, there was the Virginia Tech massacre. Particularly disturbing was the Sandy Hook massacre in December 2012. I remember waking up in South Korea and seeing the news of that all over Facebook and being shocked.
In all of the reports and profiles I read on the culprits in these school shootings, the media describes them quite similarly: outcasted kids who got teased or got embarrassed unceremoniously by a girl or listened to Marilyn Manson-type music or had a fascination with guns and gun culture. I think that’s a bit irresponsible of the media to do that but it makes money for them and it definitely stirs the conversation here in DC and across the land, especially in liberal communities who have called for firearms to be outlawed nationwide. A lot of people place the blame at the hands of the National Rifle Association because of their lobbying for the protection of the 2nd Amendment of the Constitution.
In this life, as an American, there are a couple of certainties: death and taxes. Inevitably, I will perish. I hope it will be when I’m 105 years old and around my family but I know it’s inevitable. Also inevitable is that I will pay taxes and the higher I move up that income ladder, the more taxes I will pay. I don’t like it but that’s the game. I also think that guns and gun culture in the United States are a certainty. After all, the country came into existence by way of the gun. The 2nd Amendment has been in play since it was ratified in 1791. We’re talking 2 ¼ centuries of guns being a thing in this country. Even if they were outlawed tomorrow by executive order, it would still be after well after my son’s lifetime—even if he lived to be 100—before the country would be completely rid of guns…and my son is a month away from being born, by the way. I just don’t see it happening, which is why I think it’s ridiculous when people blame guns for these shootings.
I’ve always held the opinion—and this goes back to Triumphs & Tribulations III, when I wrote about seeing Bowling for Columbine—that the guns didn’t kill and injure the students and teachers at Columbine High, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold killed and injured students and teachers with guns at Columbine High. I think that’s the thing that’s lost in translation amongst many people who get so emotionally caught up in these shootings: the guns don’t fire themselves. A human has to pull the trigger or program the weapon to fire. The problem isn’t the guns, it’s certain people who have access to guns. There are millions upon millions of gun owners in the United States. My father is a gun owner. My mother was a gun owner. I know plenty of gun owners from my days in Valdosta and in Columbus and in Wichita Falls and in Waldorf and in Opelika to know that there are very responsible gun owners in this country. On the other hand, I have come across a lot of people that have acquired guns illegally and use them for illegal purposes. I know people who have guns and I don’t particularly associate with them in person because I don’t trust them knowing they have guns. Nevertheless, in this country, we have rules regarding guns. Each state has its own thing but for the most part, they’re pretty regulated as far as gun ownership. However, there are still an estimated 5 million illegal guns on the streets and another 500000 guns in the hands of people who probably deserved a closer look in the background investigations. In almost all places, guns are illegal for minors. And in all places, it’s illegal to intentionally shoot and kill people and it’s frowned upon to shoot anybody in a school. The majority of these school shootings are by minors. Any gun control legislation would affect adults because that’s who generally are gun owners. So, for me, it’s sort of a moot point to argue gun control in the wake of these shootings committed by kids because it’s already illegal for them to have guns.
I think we, as Americans, should turn away from what we see in places like the United Kingdom or Japan, where gun crimes are very rare and gun ownership is regulated by some of the strictest measures in the world. Those countries have had many decades, if not centuries, of gun control legislation. We don’t have that in the United States and we never will. What we can do is invest more in people and educating them about guns and providing help and resources to people who may be at risk for doing bad things with guns…especially kids, who are so emotionally wound up by life that they see shooting people as an effective solution. Personally, I think the NRA and the CDC should join forces and create a side agency that deals with this. But, they are fundamentally different agencies—one conservative and one more liberal—so I don’t see that happening either. The bottom line is: school shootings are terrible and they no doubt tug at the heartstrings but they will continue until the Federal Government and the state governments and the municipal governments address the issue of people. A peaceful society doesn’t start with taking away weapons, it starts with getting people to deny their urge to hurt other people in revenge.