A 17-year-old “kid” posts a video on Youtube.com calling himself the “Freedom High Bomber” and threatening to wreak havoc “worse than Columbine” on the school that kicked him out before the end of the previous school year.
Thankfully, someone turns in the would-be bomber before he can carry out his plan on the first day of the 2012-13 school year and he is arrested and facing multiple charges for making the threats. Months later, he is convicted and sentenced to 15 years in prison, despite his own pleas and those of his mother and sister for leniency and “another chance” to show remorse for what he planned to do — in great detail — with bombs and guns.
Despite the recent events in both Columbine, CO, and at Virginia Tech University, I originally thought Judge Kimberly Fernandez went a little too far by throwing a now-18-year-old “kid” in jail for so long. As the father of two sons, now 24 and 20, it wasn’t hard for me to put myself in the position of the mother of would-be Freedom bomber Jared Cano (see page 12).
After all, most teenagers do at least some things they regret before they become adults and although Cano’s threat to commit unspeakable acts at Freedom was at least scary, most of us understood that his actions may have been as much as a cry for help and attention, as they were legitimate plans to perpetrate horrible violence on his former school.
After the events of December 14, however — when an obviously also very troubled 20-year-old young man, who seemingly had no motivation for his actions shot and killed 26 people, 20 of them innocent children under the age of 8, in an attack that also apparently was “scripted” (as was Cano’s) — I definitely now understand why Judge Fernandez decided to throw the book at Cano for making those threats.
Unfortunately, the news of Cano’s sentencing on December 5 most likely didn’t reach Adam Lanza, who ended up turning his gun on himself and taking his own life after destroying the lives of so many others.
The sad part is that even if he did hear of what could happen to him if he was caught before he carried out his plan, Lanza probably would still have gone through with it — that is, of course, unless one of his friends turned him into local law enforcement officials, the way, apparently, one of Cano’s acquaintances did.
In other words, even though words like “snitch” and “squealer” have long had negative connotations in our society, the bottom line is that no one can truly say for certain whether or not Cano would have gone through with his well-diagrammed day of destruction had he not first been arrested. The “good” news, however, is that because he will have to cool his heels in a jail cell perhaps into his early 30s, the students, teachers, parents and administrators at Freedom were spared even the possibility of having to deal with the kind of tragedy that their surviving counterparts at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT, are going to be dealing with for the rest of their lives.
In other words, while there have always been people who have committed unspeakable acts throughout history, in today’s world, where everyone has relatively easy access to assault and other weapons that can cause so much grief, those of us who abhor violence and are hoping to be able to protect the people we love have to agree that even just the threat of such violence has to be dealt with swiftly and properly.
The Issue Of Gun Control
As someone who has never been a
hunter or gun enthusiast, I’ve never really understood why some people feel so strongly about their “Constitutional right to bear arms,” which of course, was intended by our forefathers to give the people of this country the right to bear those arms to raise militias and even rebel against the federal government if it treated the people unjustly.
Since then, however, members of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) and other gun lobbyists have convinced millions of people to equate the right to bear arms with the right of individuals to own and use as many guns as they want, without fear of retribution from the government unless they use those weapons to commit crimes. As someone who believes very strongly in freedom, I may never have understood why so many people are so attached to their guns, but I still defend their right to own them, especially those who are responsible gun owners who keep their weapons properly locked and out of the reach of children.
The events at Newtown haven’t changed my position on gun control — other than I agree that the federal and state assault weapons bans should be extended to include the type of weapon that Lanza used to murder 26 innocent people, despite the fact that the “Bushmaster” is also used as a hunting gun. I guess I just don’t see how it’s considered “sporting” to be able to shoot a deer or wild hog 30 times in a few seconds. Even though Lanza may still have killed multiple people had he only used a non-automatic handgun or rifle instead of the Bushmaster, perhaps a few more families could have survived his assault intact.
About the only good news I have heard on the gun control issue since the tragedy at Newtown is that, it seems, a number of people who previously supported the current (or even weaker) gun control laws may finally be realizing how serious the gun problem is in this country. I have been elated to hear many news and even sports talk radio callers who claimed to be “avid hunters and card-carrying members of the NRA” say that they would gladly turn their guns into local law enforcement if it would save even one innocent child and that child’s family from having to deal with this type of horror.
Blame The Games?
Unlike some people, I don’t blame violent movies or even today’s too-realistic video games for incidents like Newtown or Columbine. I was either 17 or 18 years old and living in New York when I saw Robert DeNiro’s Oscar-nominated performance as New York City cabbie Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s uber-violent “Taxi Driver” and not only did I not go out and arm myself against possible violence, neither did any of my friends, nor did I hear of any copycat incidents in the months after the movie — which also was nominated for an Academy Award. I also was an avid superhero comic book reader as a youngster, but I never even threw a punch in anger at anyone.
Likewise, both of my sons and most of their friends have been long-time gaming enthusiasts who play “Call of Duty” and other shoot-em-up video games and none of them would ever perpetrate or even plan the type of violence that Lanza and the Columbine and Virginia Tech criminals carried out.
I don’t even think it’s necessarily fair to blame the parents of these young people for their acts, unless they saw more than just the usual teenage/ young adult brooding so common among (mainly) young men in that most testosterone-addled age group — and did nothing about it.
So many of us are looking for answers to this problem today, but I honestly don’t believe there is a single action anyone can take to fix it. The combination of access to powerful weapons, desensitization to violence because of our movies and video games and some parents ignoring the warning signs of impending violence on the part of their children are only part of the issue, in my opinion. In some cases, there are no real warning signs and some serial killers never played a video game in their lives.
So, despite President Obama’s mandate for stricter gun control laws, I fear there will be more incidents like the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in the years to come, which means that there will be more victims and, hopefully, more heroes who will be remembered for their bravery in the face of such unspeakable terror — such as Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who saved her students from Lanza’s attack while making the ultimate sacrifice herself. I know there are plenty of teachers and parents…and even people who have never been either…who would do the same in a similar situation.
So, as I go to press with this issue on what the Mayans predicted as the last day of this planet’s existence, all I can do is pray for a better 2013 for all of us — a better economy, fewer tragedies and, as long as I’m praying anyway, a chance at world peace.
Until then, however, I can only picture my sons both still being at Hunter’s Green Elementary and, even if the incident didn’t happpen at their school, having to explain to them that incidents like Newtown can happen here, too, we just have to hope it doesn’t. I don’t envy the parents who have to explain that to their kids today.