July 22 • 10:34 AM

Considering love affairs and lapel pin wisdom

December 12, 2007
I toy with the idea of sending a Reader Panel email in the wake of Wednesday's mall shooting tragedy in Omaha.

I feel maybe I should question readers with regard to their shopping habits and whether the horrible event will change their plans, make them more nervous at shopping malls, revise their feelings about gun control (or should I say lack of it) and what-have-you...I think of my family.

Then I think about the poor kid's final words— "Now I'll be famous."

I wouldn't exactly describe the troubled young man as famous—infamous would be more like it. Whatever word is chosen I suddenly realize that I want to make it not true. I drop the urge to "localize" the story.

On the way into the office I talk to my sister about the situation. Immediately after hearing about it I ponder the kid's rationale and the role of the media. Try as I might, I am unable to lay blame at my own doorstep. If I were a reporter in Omaha Nebraska I'd be all over the story. If a similar thing happened here, people would expect to read whatever they could about it in these pages. I'd want to give them that. And in so doing, we do indeed make somebody who we'd otherwise never know about "famous" for a day or two or whatever and the prophecy becomes a reality...

I start wondering what would happen if stories such as these were bit pieces on page 5-D or minor reports on the evening news—no accompanying video. I wonder if that would help dissuade someone from seeking their 15 minutes of fame in such a violent way.

That works for about eight minutes as the logical part of my brain speaks up to remind me that the general public has a right and perhaps even need to know that these things happen. Who-what-when-where and why (the latter of which we all really want to know but never really will). It speaks to public safety. Some may change their behavior...

...Or get a copycat idea...

Still, I'm skirting the real problem as far as blame goes. Why are there military style assault weapons available and accessible to whomever wants to lay their hands on one in this country? Why is such a weapon legal to own (and therefore available to be stolen)? Who (except maybe the police) would ever, EVER need to use such a weapon in everyday life even in the most dangerous city? What is this epic love affair with firearms we have in this country? What are we so afraid of? Why can't we see what that fear generates? Does anyone think for one minute that if that depressed and unbalanced angry young man went into a shopping mall during the holiday season and had to use his fists to take out his rage that eight people would be dead? Eight people who started out the day just going to work to earn a few bucks?

Ditto for the school and office building shootings and all the other shootings that have become so commonplace because guns are everywhere and therefore accessible to irresponsible and unbalanced individuals who don't care about anyone or anything except their own selfish needs. The ocean of suffering they cause, the illogical and crazy and avoidable tragedies. Everywhere.

Not too long ago we ran a couple of stories about a 13-year-old who shot his 11-year-old brother. He took the gun off a shelf in his grandfather's room. The brother survived, but the older kid got into some major trouble with the legal system and was ultimately enrolled in a new and hopefully helpful program for juveniles.

We've covered the shooting death of a successful area businessman and the murder-suicide of an Almont woman in front of her young son by her estranged husband. The Imlay Township man who held his wife hostage and discharged his firearm in the basement of their home.

Over the years there have been suicides. Young people who were despondent and had access to guns. These are stories you won't read here but that doesn't mean they don't happen. It occurs to me that maybe they wouldn't happen at all if the kids couldn't get their hands on guns...

I think about how it's so easy for the kid in Omaha and anyone else so inclined to "be famous" for doing such a crazy, brutal, selfish and callous thing. Way easier than becoming "famous" for, say, inventing something or helping others.

I think I wouldn't have to think about it at all if we took a serious look at our infatuation with firearms; this flirtation with disaster and the heavy, heavy price we pay...

As a lapel pin I have says, "Actually...guns really do kill people."

Email Catherine at

Castle Creek
07 - 22 - 19
Site Search


Thanks for visiting Tri City Times