A 12 Year Old Shouldn’t Have Access to a Shotgun

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The latest shooting: Two children, an 11 and a 13 year old, were shot by a 12 year old with a sawed-off shotgun in a New Mexico middle school yesterday. Both of the injured children are alive — no recent reports on their conditions. A teacher talked down the shooter, so he wasn’t hurt.

In a sane world, an aggrieved, upset 12 year old should have recourse to a number of options. He can talk to his parents. He can talk to adults at school. He can be taken to a mental health professional. He can even figure out a way to get back at the kid he’s mad at, including beating the snot out of him. All of those options have their up and down sides, but none of them involve lethal force. No one should be in the hospital in critical condition because a 12 year old, rightly or wrongly, has a grudge against another child.

No details yet about how the 12 year old got the gun. That would matter if this were a rare, isolated case of a gun in a child’s hands, but children regularly shoot children and adults, sometimes with intent like this child, sometimes while they’re just playing with a gun. It happens too damn often. Argue all you want about gun regulation and the Second Amendment. We as a society have an obligation to keep guns out of the hands of people too young to hold someone else’s life and death in their hands.

I hate it when people look for silver linings in tragedy. There are no good stories here. But the heroic action of one teacher is worth noting. Ten seconds after the shooting began, the teacher walked up to the child with the gun and, with a gun pointed at him, convinced the boy to drop the weapon, then held him against the wall until someone could get help. The teacher was armed with nothing but his bravery and — I know this feeling from being a teacher — his instinct to protect the children in his charge. Remember that, and similar responses of teachers in other schools during shootings and life-threatening storms, the next time you’re moved to talk about pampered teachers who don’t have the best interests of their students at heart.

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