I was 14 years old, sitting in my room at home. My mom had gotten into meth and alcohol and had gone crazy for the last couple of years and left the family. My dad had withdrawn from his family and just went to work and came home and locked himself in his room to watch tv. I had no friends at school. I was very hurt and very angry about all of the above issues, plus I had the crazy hormones of a teenager. Basically, I was a human time bomb.
I thought about suicide daily. I thought about killing my “enemies” at school and elsewhere. I screamed and yelled and fought my parents and other authority figures in my life. I got in fights at school. I thought I hated everyone.
If I had had access to guns at that point in my life, I think there is a very strong possibility I would have committed suicide and it is likely I could have been a school shooter.
My life was not as hopeless as a lot of the kids who become school shooters though. I had a few friends here and there, though I did not appreciate them. I had good brothers, though I mostly ignored them. I had my grandparents, who I highly respected.
My life still could have ended there if a major blessing in disguise hadn’t happened. My parents got sick of me yelling and screaming and fighting them and so they kicked me out. I moved from a nightmarish home life into a stable, happy home with my grandparents.
It took my Bestemor and Grandpa many years of working with me to help me cool off my anger and channel my energy into more productive avenues. Many nights Bestemor would come to my room at night to tuck me in (yes as a teenager) and talk to me about my anger. My Grandpa put up with me arguing with him on everything and slowly helped to teach me the finance principles, work ethic, and personal integrity that have helped me be successful in business.
When I was 18, attending University of Washington as a freshman, I got drunk with my friends one night and sent an angry email off to my high school. I ranted about a lot of things, then my friend pointed out that since my brother was student body president I might get him in trouble. So I added a note at the end that if they did anything to him I would burn down the school. Horrifying. The police called me and I went down there with my Grandpa and met with the administration. Thank god they let me go with an apology. I could easily have gotten prison time for making terrorist threats, especially since this was after Columbine and other school shootings.
I saw recently that there has been another school shooter, this time a nineteen year old boy named Nikolas Cruz. It sounds like Nikolas also had a lot of anger: his adoptive father died years ago and his mother died recently. He was a bit of an outcast. He had a lot of anger, and also a need to try to impress people – even if that impression was negative. I can relate to a lot of those feelings. He fantasized and talked about being a school shooter and probably it got him some sort of strong reaction from kids around him. He probably thought that reaction was a form of respect, and he craved it and kept doing more and more. He did not have the support around him that I have had and continued to spiral down and down. He killed 17 kids at a South Florida high school and now will spend the rest of his life in prison or be executed.
In a different life, one where I had not had my grandparents there to support me and my brothers and a few friends, a life where I would have had direct access to guns, I think I could have ended up doing a horrifying act like Nikolas Cruz.
For a long time I have thought that it is worth the trade off to have all the gun violence we do in exchange for having the ability to fight back against the government for our freedom if necessary. I thought the 33,594 deaths in 2014 from gun violence in the US was worth it. I still would like to own guns to protect my family and may purchase them if legal. However, I do feel that my certainty here is eroding away.
I think there is no chance anymore that American citizens could fight back against our government like the Founders had intended. The Founders had opposed a standing military – but now we have the world’s largest military by far. There is no gun that can fight and win against Predator drones, fighter jets, ICBMs, nuclear submarines, tanks, nerve gas, or the myriad of other enormously powerful weapons our government now holds. A very, very small group in our government could easily fight and win against every other citizen united with just guns. I think this argument for guns is completely sunk.
I also have wanted to own a gun to protect my family. The statistics don’t seem to support this theory. Owning a gun doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk of suicide. Most guns are actually used to kill yourself or a family member in a moment of intoxication or anger – not to defend against a home invader.
I did read some interesting statistics pointing the other direction though: There were 3.7 million household burglaries each year between 2003 and 2007 according to the USDOJ. In 28% of these burglaries, a household member was present during the burglary. In 7% of all the burglaries that household member experienced some form of violent victimization. Simple assault (15%) was the most common form of violence when
a resident was home and violence occurred. Robbery (7%) and rape (3%) were less likely to occur when a household member was present and violence occurred. Offenders were known to their victims in 65% of violent burglaries, and the offenders were strangers in only 28%. Hmm… 7% of 3.7 million is 259,000 burglaries with assault per year. Only 28% of these were strangers – so 72,520 cases per year.
If you look at the statistics on how often a victim with a gun uses it in self defense – there was only 259 justifiable gun related homicides or killings in self defense in 2012. In the same year, 3 out of 4 victims of firearm homicides knew their killers and more than 1 in 3 was a family member or in a relationship with the killer.
I think the fact that we can no longer defend our freedom with guns against the government, and the fact that guns generally greatly increase the gun owners risks means I have lost my justification for supporting gun ownership.
I am not really sure what can be done to prevent school shootings. There are always going to be outcasts in human society and most of them will not have the incredibly supportive grandparents that I did. Limiting guns would help, but my impression of mental health care is that it is generally pretty ineffective. I think a lot of what psychiatrists and psychologists do, especially in prescribing medications, can cause more harm than help.