The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

January 7, 2013

We wrested away a knife, but would be no match for a gun

By Jim Raykie
Editor, The Herald

---- — I enjoy writing about the past, not because I live it, but because it can offer valuable lessons that apply in our fast-paced and at times troubling world of today.

I realize we can’t return to life as it was 40 or 50 years ago. But some of the basic tenets and principles that were such big parts of our lives in our youth could serve as valuable guidance today.

The proliferation of violence in our society is beyond description. Whether it be the activity of street gang thugs or the heinous crimes committed by people like Adam Lanza in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, it paints a bleak picture of our lack of respect for human life.

The senseless murdering of children in Connecticut has captured the attention of Americans, but unfortunately and perhaps as bleak, no one has any workable answers about how to solve it. The NRA and anti-gun control individuals offer the same tired lines:

- Guns don’t kill, people do.

- When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

- It’s every American’s constitutional right to bear arms (AK 47s included).

Others argue that we need to look way beyond gun control and focus on mental health issues in society.

Sounds great, but how do we go about that? Since many times we don’t know of any issues people have until they’ve gone ballistic, how do we treat the problem?

A friend suggested that maybe when a person renews a driver’s license, that he or she undergoes a psychological evaluation.

Maybe more of such creativity is needed. But how about folks who don’t drive? And there’s that pesky little thing about who will pay for the exams?

Depressingly, I think of the craziness that is inherent in our changing society and our family structures, and I’m pessimistic that in a democratic society that we’ll be able to curb the violence (although I believe controlling assault weapons might be a good place to start).

I don’t care how much money they would pay, I wouldn’t be any kind of school administrator if it was one of the last jobs on earth. In charge of protecting our children when they are in school, it has to be one of the most demanding jobs, always having to err on the side of safety when some malcontent threatens to blow up the school, as was the case last week at Sharon High School.

Here’s the problem I have with the argument of less gun control and more focus on mental illness. If you think back to your days in school, you’ll no doubt remember the kids who were malcontents, troublemakers, loners and all of the others. Many of them, truth be told, had mental illness of some degree.

But students, parents, teachers and administrators back in the day never had the worries that we have today.

In my years at Farrell Junior High and Farrell High in the late 1960s, we never worried about one of the malcontents bringing a gun or threatening to blow up the school. A switchblade tucked inside of a sock was as bad as it got.

My point is that kids suffering from some form of mental illness when I was in school might carry a knife. Today, they can carry a gun as easily as they did that switchblade.

We could disarm (and we did) the troubled student with the knife, with maybe a few cuts and scratches.

It has proven to be a different story when troubled students are toting Glocks and other weapons that can kill lots of people in the blink of an eye.

The problem of violence, especially in our schools, should be a topic of public conversation and dialogue in every community in our country.

It’s the only way we stand a chance of coming to grips with America’s biggest and most life-threatening nightmare.

Jim Raykie is the editor of The Herald and writes this column on Mondays, His email is jraykie@sharonherald.com