The Times West Virginian

January 16, 2014

We have to be proactive in finding ways to provide help for troubled children

Times West Virginian

— Whenever there is a mass shooting, there is inevitably a debate between the warring sides of more gun control versus Second Amendment rights.

We’re not going to talk about that.

That’s a sad situation our nation has fallen victim to too many times. We are a reactive society. When a crisis occurs, we point fingers. We lay blame. We insist on changing laws and practices to prevent something like that from happening ever again.

We should be a proactive nation. We should talk about the problems we face, study the issues, come up with solutions and work to establish best practices before a crisis happens.

But it’s easier to blame, isn’t it? It’s much harder to see flaws, admit that there are flaws and fix them.

Our hearts broke on Tuesday when reports began to hit the wires about a shooting at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M.

For what seemed like an eternity, law-enforcement officers secured the scene before we knew exactly how many people were injured and whether anyone was killed in the shooting.

When the dust settled, we all learned together that a seventh-grade boy was the shooter, having apparently brought a sawed-off shotgun in his backpack. He pulled the gun out and shot two students waiting for the school day to begin, a 13-year-old girl who is in stable condition and an 11-year-old boy, who remains in critical condition following two surgeries.

A teacher, John Masterson, walked up to the student and persuaded him to put down the gun. The child followed his instructions, possibly sparing others from serious injury or even saving lives.

We will not focus on gun control right now. We will not point fingers. We will not lay blame.

But we have a few words we do want to say.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the children injured in the shooting, their family members, the students of Berrendo Middle School who are hurting right now, and with the greater community of Roswell.

No child should have to worry that one day in middle school will be their last day on Earth. No parent should fear that dropping a child off at school could mean you would lose them forever. No student should have to witness the horror of watching fellow classmates sustain gunshot wounds by the hands of a peer.

And we are thankful for the man who risked his own life in a very real way to speak to the student and convince him to end the rampage.

And our thoughts are not very far from the suspect, the child authorities believe was responsible for the crime. We have to remember that this is a child, someone who is not considered capable of making legal decisions in any state of the union.

This child was in so much mental anguish that he apparently plotted this attack. Posts to social media apparently show that at least the night before, he knew he would commit this crime and cryptically said it was the first day he was looking forward to going to school.

Where that mental anguish came from, we do not know and may never really know. Whether it was internal because of an illness, the result of physical or emotional abuse at the hands of adults or because of bullying of peers, this child was in pain and was incapable of finding another way to stop from hurting other than to gravely injure his own classmates.

Right now, let’s focus on healing from yet another hit to our nation. Let’s not start a rousing debate about gun control at the dinner table, on social media or in the halls of the Capitol.

Instead, can we focus on the social ills that brought us to this and other crises? Can we focus on what is happening to children in their homes, online and in the schools?

There is a generation in need of help in many ways, and we have to be proactive in finding ways to help them.