The day I took a gun to school

April 26, 1999|By Charles Jones

SAN FRANCISCO -- Once I carried a gun to school. But I never took it to the next level to actually use it.

In seventh grade, I was constantly the butt of jokes. If people weren't picking on me because of my size, then it was because of the clothes I wore. I not only didn't have much money to spend on clothes, but I also didn't have much of a sense of style and fashion. This left me open to bitter jibes.

Imagine meeting a young man about 4-foot-5 inches tall with very light skin and freckles, wearing turquoise 501 jeans, Pro-wing sneakers and a tall reddish Afro.

One day, when the teasing overwhelmed me, I got into a fight with another 13-year-old, a stocky guy named Larry. Needless to say he beat me up.

I was too weak to take on the bullies, but I didn't want people to think of me as a weakling. So I fought more and more, until, win, lose or draw there was no one I was afraid of.

But I was still being picked on and still getting beaten up. Two days after my 13th birthday I carried my mother's pearl-handled .22-caliber revolver to school. I hid it from my teachers but I knew where to get it if someone messed with me again. I had every intention of using it against one boy in particular.

I played out the scenario repeatedly in my head. But then I began to think about what would happen to me if I shot him. I saw myself being killed by the police in a shoot-out. I became sick with fear, and changed my mind.

I also knew that the other boy could have had a gun. The last thing I wanted was to give him the pleasure of wounding me and laughing in my face -- or even killing me. That fear made me refrain from shooting anyone.

Growing up black in the inner city, I saw lots of people resort to violence -- sometimes out of meanness but often just because they were trying to survive. Young black people sometimes say they don't see the future and they can't think about living beyond tomorrow.

But the dudes in Colorado killed because they felt their lives were already over. They didn't like what they saw in their future so they took destiny into their own hands.

I guess a key difference between boys who shoot up their schools and me is that my will to live far outweighs my desire to kill.

Charles Jones, 22, writes for YO! Youth Outlook, a publication by and about young people published by Pacific News Service.

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