The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 2, 2012

Kids can’t solve problems with a gun (2-29-12)

By Adam Smith
adam@athensnews-courier.com

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Another senseless school shooting this week left three Chardon High School students dead, and two others critically wounded.

Like neighboring Madison, Columbine, Colo., and West Paducah, Ky., the town of Chardon, Ohio, will now be added to the list of towns where fatal school shootings occurred. And like these other instances, the shooter was described as an “outcast,” or a bullied kid pushed to the edge.

Ever since the invention of the gun, some chucklehead — young or old — is under the assumption he or she can solve all their problems by pulling the trigger and taking another life. Before the gun, it was a knife. Before the knife, it was a sword. Before the sword, it was a spear. Before the spear, it was a large rock. You get the picture.

Folks with good common sense know that shooting someone else won’t solve their problems. For the alleged shooter at Chardon High School, identified as T.J. Lane, his problems are just beginning. If high school was rough, prison will present a new set of bullies who have nothing to do in their spare time but lift weights and start fights.

It’s a real tragedy that so many students have developed thin skin and can’t handle the abuse and bullying that so often accompanies being between the age of 5 and 18. I was picked on at school, as were about 70 percent of all adults. Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought about shooting another student over it.

Granted, the only gun I could have brought to school would have been my parents’ double-barrel shotgun, and I don’t think it would have fit in my book bag next to my Trapper Keeper.

My high school was a particularly rough place to receive an education, or be dumbed-down as it were. The teachers were only marginally smarter than the students. It was a diverse school, to say the least, and some of my peers have since gone on to greater endeavors like prison, drug addiction and early demises.

It was indeed a rough place. I saw probably close to two-dozen fights, one stabbing and another lunchtime incident in which a kid had his skull beat upon with a lunch tray wielded by a much larger student.

But not one single time did a shooting — or even a threat of shooting — ever occur. And keep in mind that most of these kids likely had easy access to guns and there was no such thing as a see-through book bag.

Sadly, times have changed significantly since I graduated from high school 17 years ago. There was no Facebook then and no way to pick on a kid except to his face or behind his back.

A rumor started back then might be heard by no more than five or 10 people. These days, a rumor on Facebook can spread throughout a school like a wildfire. In that sense, I guess it’s easy to see why some kids could be easily upset.

On the other hand, a mass-spread rumor doesn’t give a student carte blanche to resort to gunplay to punish his or her abusers. I think kids should resort to the tactics of my high-school peers. If a kid ticks you off, challenge him or her to a good old-fashioned fistfight after school in the school parking lot or in the nearby cemetery, which is where many a battle at my high school occurred.

I can’t ever remember being in anything more than a shoving/cussing match in high school, but a couple of those I quarreled with I ended up befriending. “In the old days,” that’s how things would happen. Two people would get mad at each other, take it out on each other and become friends.

Clearly, that doesn’t happen anymore.

One thing kids need to understand is that elementary, middle and high school are much more than institutions of learning. In between learning about reading, writing and arithmetic, you learn how to deal with different personalities and difficult people. And your encounters with difficult people don’t end when you receive your high-school or college diploma. As a human being, you encounter difficult people all your life.

You encounter difficult people on the job, in the grocery store, at the pharmacy, at the drive-thru, at the post office, at the department of motor vehicles, at the hospital and even at church.

How you choose to deal with difficult people is truly what separates the human beings from the animals. Our jails and prisons are full of people, often difficult people, who chose the wrong path toward problem resolution.

Parents and teachers really need to talk to students now and let them know they need to let the melodramas of their teenage years roll off their backs. Because while what Susie told Johnny may seem like the end of the world now, it doesn’t compare with working full time, paying on a mortgage and trying to raise a family.

So, kids of the world, you need to lighten up and toughen up. It’s a rough world and your problems won’t go away through the cock of the hammer and a pull of the trigger.

Fight words with words and work on your roundhouse kick, just in case.