Special Sauce

A mish-mash of twisted thoughts from a fevered ego. Updated when the spirit moves me, contents vary and may have settled during shipping. Do not open towards eyes. Caution: Ingestion of Special Sauce may cause hair loss, halitosis, and a burning sensation while urinating.


It's the Guns, Stupid...

'nuther old'n'moldy from my days as an actual columnist. Or something to that effect. This one never saw print- the guy who published the magazine wasn't skilled enough to keep it going. This was the first "stunt" column I was to have done- a companion column was written by a local conservative radio show host, and the articles would be on the same spread- left and right. Heh.


(or not)

Ask someone to name a place where a school shooting has taken place, and the list of names fairly rolls off the tongue. Santee, Columbine, Williamsport, Jonesboro, the body counts grow. It is a fact that any time a gun is involved in an altercation, the likelihood of having a fatality increases dramatically. But Representative Ray Haynes from Riverside, California, has said that lawnmowers and microwaves are more dangerous than guns, and the recent lawnmower maulings at a suburban high school prove this to be true. What, you haven’t heard of a lawnmower mauling? What about the fabled leaf blower incident in Stockdale? No? What about the Microwave Massacre in Middletown? Aren’t any of these incidents ringing a bell? There’s a good reason, because they never took place. Lets face it; kids with guns kill kids, end of argument. The question now is why.

After each shooting the same excuses and scapegoats are trotted out. “It’s not the guns that do the killing; it’s the deranged kids, hopped up on Eminem albums and Jackie Chan movies that do the killing.” “We don’t need new gun laws, we need to enforce the ones we have.” “Don’t take my fully-automatic assault weapon away, I need that for hunting squirrels.” My favorite; “ Harry Potter/ Jerry Springer/Captain Kangaroo warped their minds.” And the ever popular refrain; “They didn’t read enough of the Bible/Ten Commandments/Koran/Torah/Dianetics Series and that’s why they didn’t care about the sanctity of human life.” My friends, this is, in a word, crazy. Spreading the blame to these sources won’t solve the problems of school violence. All this blame laying does is momentarily give the country an excuse to wring its hands, point its fingers, and make itself feel better about letting the kids of America down.

California, the Mecca of modern thought has come up with a new and novel approach to keep kids from bringing guns to school. Los Angeles County has decided that any child caught bringing a gun to school will be required to view an autopsy. Supposedly, this will shock children into realizing that there are consequences to violent acts, and that unlike a videogame, you don’t get a “do over”. While on the surface, this may seem like a great idea, sure to impress the quick-fix folks, but when you think about it, it’s hardly an appropriate punishment. A kid who takes a gun to school is already a disturbed individual. Forcing them to see a dead body isn’t going to help them, counseling is. The lawmakers say that it will humanize the experience for the juveniles, but I just don’t see that happening. Kids see dead bodies on television, in movies, and occasionally right in their own backyards. Seeing one more on a table isn’t going to faze them. Perhaps if the lawmakers took it a step further, by taking the children to visit the families/friends/co-workers of the victims, then the crimes could take on a more human face. Maybe then the kids would realize that the individual who died had people who cared for them, depended on them, and are going to be irreparably harmed by their demise. Coupled with counseling, this could be an effective treatment for kids who take guns to school.

After a school shooting, security is usually increased, and the prevailing attitude is:”The more authority figures, metal detectors, ID badges, and security checkpoints there are, the safer little Johnny is going to be.” However, this mentality could be the very thing that helps foster school violence. Expect and encourage a child to do well, and they will. Expect the worst, and subject them to frightening Gestapo-like lockdowns, searches, and pen them in a classroom all day long and what will keep them from behaving like animals? Our schools have stopped being safe havens and have become prisons. Even as little as five years ago if you had said that you were going to increase security in your school, it meant you were going to lock the side doors, not add a new armed guard to your staff. Conservative voices say that if we get God back into our schools, specifically the Ten Commandments, we will have a decrease in violent acts, more respect, and everyone will pretty much turn into a modern version of the old Coca-Cola “I’d like to teach the world to sing” commercial. However, the shooting at a Catholic school in Williamsport pretty much blew that theory right out of the water.

We know what doesn’t work; now we must focus on finding real solutions to the violence problem. Limiting access to weapons is a good start, but frankly, the police have better things to do than check to see if every gun is locked in a cabinet, with the ammunition stored securely, and separately from the firearm. 95% of gun owners have enough common sense to do so, it’s that remaining 5% who ruin it for the rest of the nation, and act as unwitting accomplices to these shootings. Chances are if there were no gun readily available, many of these shootings would not have taken place. There is no excuse for not locking up your gun, even if you do not have a child or young adult in your house. We don’t need a law to tell us this; we just need people to take responsibility (A scary thought, I know).

A key element in most school shootings is the “bully factor.” Often the shooters had spent the majority of their formative years being “pushed around” physically and verbally by their peers. While this does not make shooting your classmates and teachers any less wrong, it does shed light on a way to prevent school violence in the first place. Children need to be taught from the very start that teasing, bullying, and physical violence are unacceptable. It is not a “normal part of growing up”. It is not something kids grow out of. It does not make kids stronger/tougher/smarter. Recent studies have shown that students who are bullied have a greater incidence of low self-esteem and suicide than children who were not bullied. The same studies have also shown that 60% of boys who were bullies during their middle school years had at least one criminal conviction by the time they were 23. 35-40% of them had 3 or more criminal convictions. As you can see, the effects are long reaching, and not just for the two parties involved. Bullies often become “problem adults” and the cost of dealing with them at the adult stage is dramatically increased.

The difficulty comes in identifying bullies and other students who would cause harm or do violent acts. In 1999 a survey of American students was done, and almost a third of them had heard another student threaten to kill another and one in five personally know someone who brought a gun to school. In both instances, nearly 80% of respondents did not report the incident to an adult. In school situations, teachers were only able to identify approximately 10 percent of students being bullied. Why is it that students are reluctant to identify their tormentors, or potential attackers? A big fear is that of retribution, but the other roadblock is adult indifference, whether real or imagined. For the average teenager, perception is reality. Going to a guidance counselor is not always an option, as their schedules are often ‘appointment only’ and by the time you get in, it may be too late. There are excellent teachers out there, whom students can turn to in times of need, but often they are few and far between. There are safe, anonymous places where one can report threats of violence, or weapons being brought to schools- the most popular of which is Report It.com This website enables students to log on and report incidents without giving their name- but that will be reported to the school to be followed up upon.

Acting on problems once they develop is good, but what about being proactive? School districts, instead of pumping our tax dollars into new-fangled metal-detectors and super-sensitive security cameras that don’t prevent anything , would better spend the money on educating their teachers first. It may not be tangible, but providing educators with the basics and allowing them to teach anger-management, conflict resolution and creative problem solving to their students will go a long way toward reducing the number of violent outbreaks. Additionally, not waiting until junior high and high school to implement these programs is key. It is easier to teach children non-violence from the beginning, than it is to unlearn over a decade of unacceptable behavior.

The scare tactics in use now are doomed to failure, but how many more dead bodies will it take before we take a hard look at ourselves, at our schools, and our communities and implement new measures. Students must be encouraged to find non-violent methods to resolve their conflicts, and those methods must be implemented from the youngest grades in order to have lasting effect. Talk to your kids and make sure they know what your values are. Talk to your school districts, and see if there is any way that you can help implement changes. Don’t wait for Columbine or Santee to come here, before you are spurred to action. We owe our kids so much more.


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