I went to school
in a different time, the late 1950's and 1960's. It was a semi-rural
area, and most people in the area had guns.
I was also a nerd
before there was such a thing as a nerd. If I were in school today,
I would have been labeled ADD and drugged into complacency. As it was,
I was bored to tears because school was not a challenge. I was a target
for every bully in the school from grades 1-12, including the teachers.
One classmate expected me to show up every morning and accept my beating.
I did it.
I looked at every
schoolday morning as a death-row prisoner must look at their last day
on Earth, except I knew I'd have to repeat it tomorrow. Like many other
kids in my school, I had easy access to guns.
If any kid ever
had motive, means and opportunity to blow away their teachers and classmates,
The LAST THING
I would have dreamed of, however, would have been to shoot someone.
I watched Elmer Fudd point a shotgun, point-blank at Buggs Bunny and
pull the trigger. All that happened to Buggs was a soot-covered face.
Somehow, however, I knew you didn't point a shotgun at a person.
I knew you didn't
Killing a human
being just wasn't a concept in my mind, or in the minds of my fellow
students. A respect for life was something we knew instinctively in
Most of the boys
in my neighborhood had guns. Surplus 7.62mm Mausers were sold at the
local department store for $12.00. Ammo was available at Robbys surplus
store. You needed no I.D., permit or anything but two bucks to buy 150
rounds of surplus NATO ammunition. We spent Saturdays at the local trash
dump shooting at rats and pretend Nazis. Other days we played war games,
had BB battles, played cowboys and Indians and Cops and Robbers. For
these, of course, we'd leave the 'Real' guns at home. We somehow knew
they weren't toys.
We built pipe bombs
filled with our own home made black powder. We made bazookas that would
shoot a dirt clod a quarter of a mile and generated hydrogen in pop
bottles full of aluminum foil and lye so we could float surplus weather
balloons (ordered from the back of the Sgt. York comics) high in the
sky and shoot them with flare guns just to watch them burn.
We knew that White
Phosphorus (Willie Pete) could burn a hole in an engine block because
we did it. We made rockets from steel broom handles and used them to
launch our homemade fireworks.
Our toys had sharp
edges, things that would burn you, shock you, crush your fingers and
get lodged in your throat. We had knives, hatchets, axes and other potentially
We lived next to
forests with snakes, rivers with undertow and all manner of other deadly
things. We had fishhooks, spears, crossbows (mostly home made) poisons
and other potentially fatal objects all around us.
Based on the above,
our recent 35th class reunion should have been attended by grieving
parents and widows. SURPRISE, we're alive and well.
between then and now….?
misguided they may appear in hindsight, who cared -- really cared.
My father took
me hunting when I was 8 years old, but only after I demonstrated that
I knew how to handle a gun and was a crack shot. When his dog Mack brought
back my first kill, a little bunny rabbit, my life changed. That lovable
furry little critter that I would have loved to pet and cuddle was cold,
bloody and dead. Nothing teaches a child more respect for life than
holding death in his hands. From that day forward I had a deeper respect
not only for life, but for what a person with a gun could do to that
life in an instant. I was upset for weeks, and that respect for life
is with me today.
We don't teach
children fear of water, we teach them to swim. Are parents doing their
children any favors by saying things like, "I never want my child
to ever even see a real gun." We all know the lure the forbidden
presents to children. Do we really want to foster this curiosity, or
should we teach our children a healthy respect for the things that can
hurt them, or others. Are we doing them a favor by completely insulating
them from anything that could cut, bruise crush or burn?
My parents had
their problems, and they both passed while I was in my early teens.
We were not wealthy, and my father was working most of the time. When
he was there, however, he left no doubt in my mind that he cared.
Could this kind
of environment possibly have something to do with the fact that none
of my classmates turned into serial killers. It couldn't have been the
guns, because we all had them. On the first day of deer season it wasn't
unusual to see a rifle or shotgun in somebody's locker when they came
in at 2:00, just in time for the last class.
One kid built a
beautiful crossbow in metal shop using a leaf spring from a car. The
thing would shoot a hardened steel rod through two layers of cinder
block at 25 yards. He got an "A."
Of course times
were different then. WWII vets saw atrocities and had traumatic experiences.
They went away as young men and returned as trained killers. These were
We watched war
movies, read really gross and violent comics (Sgt. York would be deemed
too violent today.) As teens we grew up with the horror of the Viet
Nam war on television, and for many of us, in reality. We were forced
to kill, and many of us, to die. We lived with the threat of the bomb,
practicing 'duck and cover' drills as if that school desktop would save
us should the Russians attack. What we have to ask ourselves is not
why times were different then, but how.
Guns haven't changed.
Guns are pretty much the same as they were at the beginning of the century.
They were easier to get then, but the mechanics have pretty much remained
changed. They are still born without avarice, hatred, intolerance and
Could it be the
parents who have changed?
Is this the same
set of draft-dodging "generation ME" parents who also settle
workplace disagreements with violence? No wonder the kids are screwed
up! But that's another
T. Stephen Eggleston,
aka The Eggman
a related story
on school violence: http://www.is.wayne.edu/stuarthenry/schoolviolence3.htm