Boys cry bullets.
“Mom, pick up your phone,” the text read.
“MOM CALL ME NOW!”
Then my phone rang.
It was my daughter, who was at work, about to greet a client, when her daughter texted her.
“Mom, can you go get the girls at school? RIGHT NOW? Their school has received another gun threat.”
Yes, she said, “Another.”
Just the day prior, a 15-year-old boy had brought a 9 mm pistol to school, and was showing it to classmates as if it were a cool toy. Later that morning, he got into a physical altercation with another boy. My granddaughter was about 30 feet away as fellow students gathered around the duo, looking on as the fight ensued. They were totally unaware that one of the two was armed.
Fortunately, a student who had witnessed the earlier show-and-tell alerted school officials and the police were on the scene in minutes. They confiscated the gun and apprehending and arrested the teen.
The following morning, the school learned of yet another threat of a gun fight.
As I was speaking with my daughter, I imagined that the panic and desperation in my her voice was echoed by the hundreds of parents concurrently receiving texts from their children and a robocall from the school administration.
I grabbed my car keys and dashed out of the house, texting my oldest granddaughter to let her know I was on the way, and asking her to ensure her sister was with her.
“Hurry, please,” she texted. “I’M SCARED.”
I kept telling myself that this couldn’t be happening. This was something that happens elsewhere.
But on this day, it wasn’t somewhere else. It was right here, in our community.
They’re okay. They’re going to be okay.
The school was surrounded by police vehicles, lights flashing. The scene was understandably chaotic, with parents and grandparents parking in lots, streets and anywhere else their cars would fit. As some parents emerged with their children, others parents were rushing in.
I texted my granddaughter to let her know I was there, and she dashed out of the building, followed by her sister.
I could see the fear on her face. Her eyes were red and a bit puffy. Her voice trembled as she whispered to me, “I’m trying not to cry.”
I texted my daughter: “Got them.” Huge sigh of relief.
As we drove away from the school, my granddaughter recalled in prior years “active shooter drills” during the first few weeks of school. But they had not yet done so this year.
Active shooter drills.
America, what have we become?
Mass shootings are becoming so commonplace that many have become desensitized to them. And the numbers of deaths keep rising.
How did we get here?
I remember years ago hearing a psychological observation about how teens handle extreme angst:
Girls cry tears. Boys cry bullets.
We’ve seen members of Congress posing with their children for their Christmas card photos while brandishing AR-15 style weapons. They think this is normal.
Then there’s the incident in which a 17-year-old kid rushed into a volatile street protest, armed with an AR-15 style weapon, running around as if he was playing in a video game. On that night, he shot three people. Two died. Gun advocates labeled the shootings “self-defense,” and applauded his efforts. They launched a legal defense fund, raising millions of dollars on his behalf.
His trial and the aftermath widened the political divide. Some say he had no business being at that protest. Others proclaimed him a patriot, saying he was there to help people and businesses protect their properties. Some celebrated his acquittal. Others say he got away with murder.
He was 17 years old.
It was what happened next that I found most troubling. We watched as gun enthusiasts turned the rifle-toting teen into a rock star, parading him around at political conventions and events and making him believe he was a real hero. Rally attendees enjoyed photo ops with the new poster child for “The Right to Bear Arms.” He posed for pics with Congressmen and women. He even took a selfie with the former President.
As they celebrated their brave young gunman, social media posts amplified their joy, with many of the pics going viral. What resulted was a terrible concern: what if another vulnerable child saw this homage as a way that they, too, could be accepted and loved?
The bottom line is that we’re now living in a world in which guns have been normalized. People walk into coffee shops with military rifles slung over their backs. Eighteen-year-old kids can walk into a gun store and legally purchase an AR-15 style weapon and ammo. And nearly every day now, we hear of another mass shooting. Sometimes more than one.
So we extend our thoughts and prayers. Then we go about our lives. Meanwhile, parents, grandparents and siblings mourn the loss of their loved ones when another mass school shooting takes place, bringing to a tragic end young lives of those caught in the crossfire. The shootings are shattering the lives of countless others in the process, including the students and teachers who escape the shootings but remain haunted by the memories, and the families of those who are senselessly slaughtered.
We’ve got to put an end to this.
Regardless of individuals’ views on their rights to bear arms, we should not lose sight of this reality: children have rights too.
Our children should have the right to go to school without fear of being shot. They should have a right to survive their school years and attend their graduations, surrounded by family and friends. And they should have the right to live long happy lives, celebrate their weddings, have children of their own, and attend their children’s graduations. And their grandchildrens.’ And so on.
I hope we all can agree that children should not be shooting children. We must work together to fix this.
Mass shootings aren’t something that happens in other communities.
They can happen in ours.