First, read this gentle statement by LeVar Burton.
As good as the article is, it's not quite how I would respond. Here's my answers, if I had a kindergarten-age child to explain this madness to.Why did he do it?
There are some people in the world whose minds get broken somehow. Maybe they were born that way, or maybe something built up inside them- it's hard to say. A few of these people get angry at the world, and they think that nothing they do matters. These people lash out at others, partly to get attention, partly because they don't want to live anymore and want to hurt other people before they go. That doesn't make sense, but it's true.Could he have been stopped?
He could have been stopped, yes. A lot of people like him are stopped, one way or another. But people aren't perfect. We make mistakes. Sometimes we miss the chances to stop people like this person, and that can't be prevented. We can only do our best.What could we do to stop him?
There are a lot of people who will say that the best way to stop people like him is to ban guns. If it could be done, it certainly would make it harder for people like him to kill so many other people. The problem is deciding whether or not it's better to take a chance on something like this happening every few years, or else to prevent all the people who DON'T shoot other people from owning guns.
We already do a lot of things to prevent things like this from happening that make life a little worse for everybody. I don't fly because of all the annoying hang-ups involved with flying since 9-11-2001, the "shoe bomber", the "underwear bomber," the "shampoo bomber," and so on. When I was a kid schools were open, and grown-ups could come visit at any time. Today schools have metal detectors and their own police departments, and you practically have to get an appointment to see the inside of your kid's school.
We do these things, and yet people like this sometimes get through anyway. This isn't because we're not doing enough. It's because we aren't perfect, and sometimes bad people just get lucky.So we can't do anything?
I didn't say that. There are a few things we could do that we're not doing now that probably would make us all safer.
First and foremost, we could take care of the people whose brains are broken or about to break. There are always warning signs- threats of violence, cruelty to animals, rapid changes in mood, that sort of thing. Unfortunately we live in a society where too many people would rather leave these people without the care they need rather than spend a dollar more than they absolutely have to. If we, as a nation, were a little less selfish, we could make this a lot less likely.
Second, we don't need to ban guns to make it harder for people like this to shoot so many people. Gun training, licensing people who want to carry guns outside their home- these are a couple of common-sense fixes which would help keep guns out of the hands of those who might misuse them. Unfortunately the same kind of person too selfish to help the sick is also too selfish to give up an unlimited and absolute freedom to make it safer for everyone else.Will this happen to me?
Almost certainly not. First, the man who did this is dead- he won't hurt anybody else ever again. Second, there really aren't many like him- this sort of thing happens, on the average, about once every other year in our country. In the time you'll be in school, that means not more than six schools will have a shooting like this, and probably fewer... and there are close to a hundred thousand schools in the United States. So most likely you'll never have this happen in any school you ever go to, ever.
And even if someone like this had your school in mind, the odds are he won't get to do it. Your teachers, the principal, the superintendent, and the police all work every day to make sure you and the other students are safe. Yes, sometimes they make mistakes or slip up somehow, but most of the time they get it right. If I had a gun, could I shoot back? What about my teacher?
Should you have a gun? I don't think so, not until you're strong enough to handle it safely and have the right training to know when not to use it. Also, they almost certainly won't let you bring it to school if you had it, because they might think you were like this bad man. They would be afraid you would use your gun like he used his, and that would lead to bad things for everybody.
But if they did let you take one to school, would it do you any good if a bad guy came to shoot you and your friends?
I can't answer that one. Nobody can.
The thing is, having a gun is a very serious responsibility. If you're not careful you might shoot someone besides the bad guy. Worse yet, the police might see the gun in your hand and think you are the bad guy and start shooting at you. It's best that only people with training on when to shoot and not to shoot have a gun out in public.
Even then, the only way anyone can know if having a gun would be useful would be to experience the exact conditions of the specific incident themselves. Usually, when someone's shooting at people, it's very confusing. People are running and screaming. Bullets are going every which way. You might or might not know who started the shooting. You might or might not be able to aim at the bad guy without hitting other people. You might never even see the shooter at all.
And finally, remember: the bad guy, this man whose brain was broken somehow, is now just as dead as everyone he killed. Most of the time, dead people stay dead, and it's forever. Some people have no problem with the idea of killing other people; others can't even conceive of it. I'm somewhere in the middle; I could probably kill if I had to to defend myself or others, but I really don't want to, not even someone like this person who shot a bunch of kids because his brain was broken.
That decision- the decision whether or not to kill someone to save the lives of others- nobody should ever force somebody else to make that decision. Everybody should make it for themselves, if the time ever comes. I hope it never does.
Should your teacher have a gun? Only if the teacher is trained, and only if the teacher is comfortable with the responsibility that having a gun requires. If the teacher doesn't want a gun, isn't comfortable around guns, then the teacher shouldn't have one.
I personally would be quite happy if trained and licensed teachers were allowed to have guns in their classrooms just in case. I'd be happier still if they made gun safety training a mandatory part of lessons in school. But not everyone thinks the same as me, and sometimes I'm wrong about things, so I don't get too angry about things not being as I'd like them.Are guns dangerous?
Yes, they are, but only if used to do bad things- or if they're used carelessly. Guns are not toys. They can potentially kill people by accident. They make people scared when they see them, which can lead to people doing stupid things and getting hurt because they were afraid. There are too many people who refuse to acknowledge this- they're the ones who say, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." What they say is true but misleading. Guns make it easier to kill people, and they make it easier for people to get killed out of fear or stupidity.
That doesn't mean guns are bad. A gun is a tool, like a hammer or a saw, only a lot more powerful. Guns require careful handling. When you have a gun, you need to be considerate of others around you. If you're not willing to be considerate, then you shouldn't carry a gun. If you are careful, considerate and trained, then you can use a gun safely for protection, for hunting, or for fun. Most people who have guns are careful, considerate, and trained, and they shouldn't lose their guns just because of those people who do bad things with them.
But remember: a gun is a thing. It's not alive. It doesn't move by itself. When someone gets shot, it is because someone was being bad or being careless. Maybe we should make the rules to prevent people from being bad or careless too often... but we shouldn't punish the gun because a person made a mistake.
(At this point my inner child has run out of questions and asked for some ice cream. I shall indulge him now.)