Last week ABC TV aired several installments of a series that focused on the danger of guns in the home – especially homes with small children.
The program featured Diane Sawyer and lots of stats related to shooting events. For example: There have been 28 school shootings since the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School near the small town of Littleton, Colo.
Two male students entered the school on April 20 with plans, bombs and other items, bent on killing hundreds of their fellow students. The spree killed 12 students, a teacher and both shooters.
Since then, schools across the nation - including Billings School District 2 - have taken safety precautions. National restrictions on gun ownership were much talked about but soon forgotten.
Both of the young killers were good students and the products of well-to-do families. Neither had a criminal record. Both were the victims of bullying.
The network’s brief profile of freelance executioners evoked memories of a time when God was in his Heaven, Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and all seemed right with the world.
But was it really?
My hometown high school was stocked with 25 students (give or take a few studying for the gallows) and not much else. Three suffered gunshot wounds during their high school careers.
ABC’s estimates of victims was a guess. My count of wounded students at the old alma mater is spot on.
The first was a farm kid who strapped on a six shooter, stared down range, drew and fired … shooting himself in the calf. A second was wounded in a bizarre Wild West game of cowboys and outlaws. A half-dozen teens rattling around in a car set off a rifle, producing the third hit. The pack searched for the errant bullet for some time before finding it lodged in a door. Minutes later the lost bullet was found to have clipped the finger of one of the passengers.
All wounds were inflicted by .22 rim fire weapons. No one was killed.
Americans ask: ”What’s happening to this country? What has gotten into our youth?” Many aver, “Kids were not shooting up the streets and classrooms like this when we were young.”
They weren’t? Here’s a bit of history:
In 1764, a band of Lenape Indians entered a school at Greencastle, Pa., shot the school master and killed nine or 10 children.
In 1853, Mathew Ward, a student, brought a pistol to class and killed the school master in revenge for punishment the teacher gave Ward’s brother.
Later, it was a family affair when a Mr. McGuiness threatened the teacher who expelled his daughter. The girl’s brother learned of the father-teacher quarrel and killed the teacher.
In 1864, word of Jesse James’ bold exploits drifted east. Jesse James gangs sprung up. Youths engaged in shootouts with lawmen and townspeople in several towns.
The 21st century will be remembered for a massacre in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14, 2012, when a lone gunman killed 26 people, including 20 children.
On Oct. 22, 2006, a milk truck driver entered a one-room Amish elementary school and opened fire, killing five students before turning the gun on himself.
March 21, 2005: A 16-year-old killed seven, including five students, at a Red Lake, Minn., high school before taking his own life.
Paducah, Ky., Dec. 1. 1997: A 14-year-old opened fire on a prayer group, killing three and wounding five. The shooter is serving life in prison.
A 14-year-old killed a teacher and two students at a Moses Lake, Wash., high school before he was disarmed by another teacher. The killer is serving two life sentences.
Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Whitman opened fire from the clock tower at the University of Texas at Austin, killing 16 people and injuring 31. The shooting spree ended when a cop shot Whitman.
I was in Mexico, driving north toward Texas. Newsmen on the Spanish language radio stations called the killer “Wheatmon.”