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Friday, April 23, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 137

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Littleton is a lot closer than you think

Margaret Mitchell

What can be said about a tragedy like the one that occurred on Tuesday at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.?

Not much can be said, but a lot of questions can be asked. "Why?" is the first question that comes to mind. Why would somebody do something like this? Why didn't somebody know about it? Why didn't somebody do something about it?

Since there aren't any good answers to the question, the questions inevitably shift to "How?" How can something like this be prevented? How can we make sure that something like this never happens again?

There aren't any easy answers to these questions either. Oh, the stock answer of metal detectors in schools comes up. But nobody wants to feel like they are going to school in a prison.

On a more practical level, one needs to look no further than the shooting at the United States Capitol last year. They had metal detectors and armed guards at the door, but the gunman just shot them from outside the door and then just walked on in. It's clear that metal detectors didn't stop that tragedy from occurring.

Metal detectors could stop some kids from bringing guns to school on a daily basis, but it is clear even at this early stage in the investigation that this act in Colorado was planned meticulously, down to the last booby-trap.

We also can run the gamut from gun control to stopping violence on TV and in movies. We can run this gamut around in circles until we fall down in exhaustion. It's not going to change anything.

The simple and sad fact is that there are people out there who are like this. Everybody knows it. But what can be done about people who have some problem, some chip on their shoulders that they can't deal with? How can we fix a situation that we can't understand?

Think back to when you were in school. You knew of kids who were trouble with a capital T. But what did you do about kids like these? If you hung out with them, you probably got in trouble yourself. If you avoided them like the plague, you gave them a reason to hate you.

From the accounts of students at Columbine, the "Trench Coat Mafia" kids were avoided and made fun of because they were weird.

There are a couple of 10-year-old boys I know who are like this. Although I don't expect them to show up at school with automatic weapons and spray the cafeteria with bullets, I do suspect that they will end up in jail at some point in their lives.

One of them seems quiet and polite, but when adults are not around, he lets loose stealing and destroying the property of others. He's been caught a few times, but he does not seem to care about consequences at all. I have tried to reach out to him, but how can you help someone who doesn't want help because he "doesn't have a problem?"

It's not that the consequences aren't strong enough, because my own son has endured the same ones and has managed to learn from his mistakes and not repeat them.

The other is, unfortunately, a lost cause. His mother is mentally disturbed, and so is the family she is raising. She is the first person proclaiming her son's innocence for whatever he's accused of. This kid learned the ropes from his older brother who gets his kicks by threatening those too small to defend themselves. It's difficult to stop what can't be proven, though -- my word against yours.

I hate standing here watching this, knowing what lies in store for them and the others they are inevitably going to hurt, knowing that there is very little, if anything, I can do to prevent it.

At the end of the day, I guess all we can do is hope and pray. And, if the worst does happen, duck and cover.


 
Mitchell, a junior political science major,
can be reached at smeggie37@csi.com.
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