If We Don't Keep Our Children From Harm's Way, Who Will?

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April 19, 1992|By Mary Gail Hare

A .357 Magnum pistol made its way to my son's classroom at East Middle School last week.

Yes, right here in Westminster.

An eighth-grade student brought the gun to school, probably on a bus full of other children. At least two boys handled the weapon before placing it in a book bag.

A teacher was alerted, and no one washurt.

The two boys were arrested by Westminster City Police and released into the custody of their parents. They also were suspended from school -- possibly for the rest of this year.

The gun was not loaded; it was jammed with a spent cartridge.

I have talked to many parents whose feelings range from outrage to frustration. Many blamed the gun owner for allowing his son access to a lethal weapon.

Doesn't the owner of that gun bear some of the responsibility? Shouldn't he bear some of the punishment?

One father said a man who cannot monitor his guns should have them confiscated.

The boy told EastMiddle School Principal Donald Reck he had fired the gun five days prior to carrying it to school. Five days and his father hadn't discovered the gun had been used.

The boy feared he might have ruined the gun by placing the wrong size ammunition in it, the principal said.After firing, the cartridge remained lodged in the chamber.

He brought the gun to school after a classmate, who said he was familiar with guns, offered to clear the chamber.

Why is a 13-year-old familiar with a pistol? And, where would he repair it?

Reck said the boy didn't come to school armed for a fight or afraid for his safety.

He called the action "just one of those dumb things kids this age do."

Exactly. Middle school students are at that awful in-between age.

They are still children, unready to combat much of society's ills. We must keep them out of harm's way.

In our schools and our homes, we educate them about the evils of drugs and sexually transmitted diseases. Do we have to start teaching them about guns, too?

I heard about the incident while transporting a group of boys home frompractice. Car pool mothers often get information from conversations behind their backs. We may find out about the unstarted project due tomorrow or the party planned to coincide with parental absence.

Smart drivers can tune in without letting the passengers know their chatter is being monitored.

Here's how that conversation sounded: (I've used fictitious names.)

"Did you hear about the gun in our classroom today?" said Ronald.

"Yea, it was a Saturday-night special,"said George, mistakenly. "It wasn't loaded. Byron just brought it toschool so Calvin could fix it."

"Yeah, Tammy saw the gun, and told a teacher," said Ronald. "Nobody is talking to her now."

"Wait,"I said, letting them know I was listening. "If you saw a student with a gun, you wouldn't tell a teacher?"

"No way, man," replied one boy. "I wouldn't rat on anybody."

His friends were ambivalent, looking around the car for the answer.

Reck is right. These children might be school-smart, but they do dumb things. They might not seek an adult's protection when they find themselves in danger.

They need that protection desperately. We certainly can't allow anyone to give them access to weapons.

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