The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

What makes a young man so willing to kill

Twenty children and six adults were killed in a Connecticut elementary school, 10 days short of Christmas; one wonders what will convince us to stop killing our kids.

Almost before the shooter, 20-year-old Andy Lanza, had stopped pulling the triggers on his two pistols, knees across the nation began to jerk. “Get rid of the guns,” cried those on one side of the divide. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” replied NRA CEO and Executive Vice-President Wayne LaPierre, recommending teachers be armed.

At least one person on the planet agrees with Mr. LaPierre. North Korean Dear Leader Kim Jong-un recently proclaimed military strength Job One for his tiny nation.

“The military might of a country represents its national strength,” said Mr. Kim. “Only when it builds up its military might in every way can it develop into a thriving country.”

Just before Christmas, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett lauded volunteers preparing packages of groceries for needy residents, after overseeing budget cuts that left thousands of the same needy residents out in the cold. Then he promised the full strength of his administration to keep the Pittsburgh-based 911(th)  Air Force Reserve wing open when its C-130 cargo planes are retired next year, and the Air Force reservists watching over the skies of Pennsylvania.” – presumably to fend off attacks from anti-fracking hordes in Ohio and New York.

We Americans do love our firepower, as long as it isn’t used to kill kids here at home. At least, not 20 kids at a time. Six kids were killed in a movie theater a few months ago and the outrage from the rest of us didn’t last long.

A few nights ago, there was another school shooting in California. The evening news used the story to introduce the more important item: Vice President Biden was meeting with the NRA and others to come up with gun control recommendations for President Obama. Details of the California shooting didn’t matter; only one person was shot, with a shotgun, and then only injured, by a 16-year-old who surrendered to police. Now back to our regularly scheduled discussion of assault weapons.

A month after the grisly death-dealing in Sandy Hook Elementary School, we have pushed from our collective mind the 20-year-old man who killed 20 kids, 8 teachers and then himself, and turned our attention to banning, or at least limiting, assault-style weaponry. The assault-style rifle is sexy, but Adam Lanza didn’t use one. He left it in his car when he used a couple of pistols to shoot his way into the school.

Background checks are another feel-good idea, unless we can come up with a way to predict a person preparing to commit a violent act. Neither Lanza nor the California teen used illegal guns, and neither had a felony conviction that prohibited their possession of the guns they used.

The situation calls for a change in priorities. Banning assault weapons, or the clips that increase their firepower beyond what any deer hunter realistically needs, will make some of us feel good, as though we’ve done our part. But they will not deal with the mental states of those who decide their craving for attention, even for bad behavior, can be filled by killing, with whatever weapon is handy.

What is not a good idea is cost cutting legislation that dumps mental health care onto the streets, to become a police concern. What is not a good idea is drugging our kids when they misbehave – until they are 18, when we can throw them in jail – rather than dealing with them, and giving them the attention they require. This nation has more of it’s population behind bars than any other nation on the planet.

Not the kind of attention that makes a youngster tell bigger stories than his classmates, but the kind that seems to fit a phrase I’ve not heard spoken out loud in many years: Some young people think any attention is good, even if it’s for doing something very bad.

Lanza and that unnamed kid in California, and shooters in other cities, had in common a need for attention. I’m not a doctor; I don’t know exactly what to do about the young people – and the shooters in these events seem all to be young people – who think violence is the way to get attention. But I am a parent, and a grandparent, and I know what we’re doing isn’t working.

We need to place more importance on caring for the “less fortunate” among us than we do in keeping an air wing on the job, “watching over the skies of Pennsylvania.”

We need to measure our outrage against the carnage – not by whether 30 shots were fired, or only 10 – but by questioning what could have made a person that young become so anti-life.

And then we need to get to work doing something about that problem.

Only then will begin to see the slaughters’ end.


  1. Educating parents/guardians of afflicted kids via doctors advice, DVD, and health care websites on red flag behavior and why these children should never be given weapons of any type. Gun locks and education on gun safety at home is also a good idea and should be provided with gun purchases.

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