Burton on the Bay:
Meeting the Enemy
When children turn to murder, we're all to blame

If there had been even one armed guard in the school, he could have saved a lot of lives and perhaps ended the whole thing instantly.

	-Charlton Heston,
	 current president of the National Rifle Association

That's one foot in the mouth, Charlton. I'm sure the other one will be between your lips by the time the annual NRA convention folds its tent in Colorado. Maybe for a while, it would be best to keep a low profile: no more of this talk about bringing even more guns into schools. Or arming more people to play vigilantes or cops.

My advice, Charlton, is to sit back and let some other segments of society take some of the rap following the tragic shoot-out at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. There's a lot of blame to go around.

Colorado is a couple thousand miles from Anne Arundel County, so like everyone else - including parents and school officials in Littleton (until a couple of weeks ago) - I figured it could never happen here.

At my age, I should realize one never uses the word "never." Soon as one does, what could never happen happens. Bingo. Three North County students of Glen Burnie High were arrested on charges of making bomb threats and possessing bomb components. Bombs and guns go together these days, it seems: The former to back up the latter; you know, wipe out those who survive the guns.

And over the past year, we've all been aware of the numerous worrisome and costly incidents involving phoned bomb threats to county schools, some solved and others not. We've learned that Anne Arundel County is not immune to all this craziness. The citizenry is alarmed - though hopefully not sufficiently alarmed to send armed guards into the schools.

That's just what we need, the good guys shooting at the bad guys, the bad guys shooting at the good guys, hot lead flying everywhere and no place for students to escape the paths of stray bullets in the mayhem.


Who's to Blame?

The NRA, which would rather forget the whole thing but can't, tries to put the blame elsewhere.

The movie industry washes its hands. So does the Internet, television, extremist rap singers, those of the video game industry, and, yes, even parents who allow their children to watch, listen to and play the products of those promoting violence. Now that blame has become a participant in a game of musical chairs, perhaps it's time to remove all the chairs from the parlor and let all the players stand exposed when the music stops.

Just a couple weeks ago, I overnighted at a popular Eastern Shore tourist stop, where I watched a few groups of noisy youngsters clustered around quarter video games in which the object was to knock off as many people on the glass screen as they could. He/she who mowed down the most could punch their name in on the high score listing and get a moment of fame and glory.

Fantasy violence, we see it everywhere. It's the same stuff available in home video games, gore and guts, mow 'em down, and the more down, the higher the score. The very same parents who blame schools, movies, the NRA or rap singers are usually the ones who give the quarters to their kids to play the games. They probably foot the bill for the home video games, too.

Anything to keep the kids occupied. Why, everyone does it, they say, and so it goes. Same with the movies, the more gore the better, people shooting everywhere, people dying everywhere. Same with many of the rap songs that pollute the airwaves and the personal CDs. And let's not forget the video movies purchased and rented.

Violence and killing is the thrust of all of them. Blood flows like water, people good and bad are blasted into oblivion, there is torture, cruelty, mayhem and all under the guise of entertainment.

It's all there, the excitement, the fantasies, the glorification of killing, maiming and destruction. It's all there but the real pain, the real agony, the real misery. It looks so easy, so simple, so exciting, this chance to play God and decide who lives and dies.

What a way to gain notoriety, get revenge, make an impression, rule one's niche in this crazy world. Then we wonder why some with less moral fiber and character than others decide to live out those fantasies.


Blame to Go Around

Thankfully, very few cross the line, but their numbers continue to increase. Since 1950, violent crime among the young has increased sevenfold. When it's all portrayed so simple, easy and exciting, what can we expect?

Listening to C-Span Radio the other day, I heard a movie industry mogul evade U.S. Senate panel inquiries about the role Filmdom plays in planting the seeds of destruction in the minds of the young. He only wanted to talk about how the movies now play down smoking among actors and actresses, which he boasted saves lives. One would have thought that smoking and cancer were the only villains portrayed on the screen.

Of course, he didn't care to go into the social benefits of less filming of killing and destruction. That would have hurt at the box office.

Sure, something has got to be done about guns, the non-sporting types in particular, and the access of the younger set to them for purposes other than hunting or target shooting. The sooner the NRA accepts this and concedes the urgent need for more reasonable control, the more lives will be spared, and the less likely those of use who own firearms for legitimate reasons will be denied that privilege.

But NRA is only one of the players in all of this madness. Other factions plant the seeds and motivate the planning. Then comes the gun - and if it can't be a gun, it will be something else such as bombs, recipes for which are easily available on the Internet.

Perhaps the very same parents who are pointing fingers might do well to crook those fingers around in their own direction and do a little thinking about the role their failure to live up to their responsibilities is playing in our schools.

Enough said ...

Until I learn from my daughter in Burrillville, Rhode Island that my granddaughter in middle school, Jennifer Lyons, was number five on a hit-list posted on the Internet for disruptions planned for this Friday at her school. Police are investigating.

The violence gets closer and closer.

| Issue 18 |

Volume VII Number 18
May 6-12, 1999
New Bay Times

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