It’s in our DNA

An event this week moved me to repeat a column I wrote in August 2001. Most of it, anyway. Here, slightly edited for length and modernization, …

OK. If a kid shot one of my grandkids, I’d get testy and hard to get along with. If another kid merely picked on one of my grandkids, school administration would be wondering whether I had a cot in the principal’s office.

Ask my kids. Their schools were used to seeing Dad in the corridors, chatting with teachers and administrators.

What got me thinking about the whole violence-in-school issue was a combination of observations.

Our church bulletin, in an editorial titled “The Faces of Violence,” opened with a scene from the Emmy Award-winning TV show The West Wing. One of the president’s staffers noted the U.S. has the same population by itself as six western European nations have together.

Then he pointed out their combined annual homicide rate stood at 300, compared to ours at 30,000.

“Are we a nation of savages?” the editorial quoted, “or do their gun control laws account for the stunning difference.”

I looked up from my reading – and noticed about three rows in front of me, a tee-shirt.

“2001 Battlefield Blast,” it said. “Defend Your Honor.”

At first, I thought the design was from a video game — one of those head-chopping, machine-gun spewing “games” that splatters blood all over the desk and mouse.

But no — closer examination revealed the logo to be about soccer.

Later, I found them – crowds of kids defending their honor on the field of battle. The youngsters were showing their parents what happens when someone has the effrontery to challenge them on, of all places, a soccer field.

Monday. First Day of school for many schools across the nation. CNN, when it can take a break from a hostage situation in Chicago, paraded some talking heads to tell us how to eliminate violence in schools.

Question for one of the talking heads: In a recent survey of college students, what was their greatest concern? Answer: Getting shot.

Responding to another question, the talking head said upwards of 75 percent of the students knew someone, or knew of someone, who had possessed a gun on campus.

The survey probably would have stood up on the local college campus. A Gettysburg College student bought what he apparently thought was an antique pistol. As best the story can be pieced together from public information, the young man displayed the gun within the confines of his residence. There was no report of his threatening anyone.

Unfortunately, his residence was a Washington Street apartment house – owned by the college. Another student saw the gun and reported it to campus authorities. They confiscated the gun – the campus had a zero-tolerance policy about guns on campus — and invited the student to take a one-year leave from the school.

The college quickly turned the matter over to Gettysburg police.

“I think they were concerned about where he got the gun,” said then-college spokeswoman Patricia Lawson.

Six months earlier, the college had not seemed nearly as concerned when a student was discovered to have been manufacturing illegal drugs on campus. School authorities took nearly two months to give the case to Gettysburg police.

Not much has changed in 20 years. We still pretend the guns are the problem.

Our national DNA is coded in a tradition that any argument can be solved with a gun. We clearly believe that guns will establish our rightness. And use of a gun seems to automatically confer adulthood on its user – consider 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse and 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley. They were mere boys, until they used guns to defend their honor.

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