Just a Thought – Shooter

You are always safe, you are never safe. Choose one. And know that the one you choose, that is true.

Gun violence has changed the shape of my life more than I care to think about. My kids are shaken to their back molars over the arrest of a student at Culver City High School who was talking about shooting, and then was found to have a gun.

Last Tuesday, February 27th, I attended the school board meeting to announce the re-launch of this site. I hadn’t meant to blurt it out, but I found myself telling the school board about my father being shot, way back in the 20th century.

At the time, having a total stranger murder you was almost unheard of. My father was a doctor – the shooter hated doctors – when he was told he had terminal cancer, he decided to take a few doctors out with him. Not his doctors, just random strangers. In 1975, this was incredible.

In 2018, every day of the week, almost a hundred Americans die from guns. Strangers, friends, accidents, suicides, and the statistical chart topper, boyfriend/husband/domestic violence.

Yet it’s the mass murderer with the assault rifle that finally brings us to a state of horror, and then to the need for change. Who are these desperate boys, whose only hope of satisfaction seems to be infamy? How did this get to be so common?

I tell myself I am safe, I tell my children we are safe, but I never turn the radar off.

It was more than a few years ago, because I was parked on Sawtelle waiting to pick up my daughter from El Rincon. It was a cloudy day, there had been a bit of drizzle earlier, and the sidewalks were still damp. There was a woman wearing a hajib, walking up the sidewalk, holding a toddler by the hand, and a man crossing the street, smoking a cigarette with one hand, carrying something in the other.

I don’t know what set off the alarm bells in my mind. The way that he looked at her with such contempt, the sudden increase in his stride as he walked towards the school but I instantly saw that he was carrying a rifle. As I quickly unclipped my seat belt and popped the car door open, wildly looking to intervene. I looked again, and it was an umbrella.

My panic softened into relief like a butter melting, and as I looked again, I really studied the moment. The umbrella was just the right size to be a gun – it was a length of brown with a black handle, so the coloring seemed correct. The cigarette smoking man looked like he’d just as soon kill that Muslim woman and her child as look at them.

On that wet day, I knew it could happen here. It could happen anywhere. No one is safe.

Later that week, Adam Lanza opened fire on a kindergarten class at Sandy Hook. No one is safe.

At the school board meeting on Tuesday, we were discussing the upcoming student action for gun control, a protest inspired by the survivors of the Parkland shooting.

On Wednesday, the CCPD arrested a Culver City High School student who had made threats, and, as it turned out, owned a weapon.

It could happen here. So why did it not happen here?

The student made the threats in front of friends who took the matter seriously. They went to the school administration, who took them seriously. The police took the school administrators seriously. There was communication, there was responsibility, and there was action taken. We are safe.

Understanding, trust, communication, responsibility – these were the factors that stopped a tragedy from becoming reality.
We are safe.

But our country has to change, our culture has to change, so that we never raise another Adam Lanza, we never educate another Dylann Roof, we never let another Nikolas Cruz get within shouting distance of a gun. If their lives, if their communities had kept them safe, they would not be infamous.

We are all safe, or no one is safe. You choose.

Judith Martin-Straw

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