What can go so wrong in a teenager’s development that he murders another person just because he can?
Like many of you, I’ve been haunted by the story coming out of Duncan, Okla., today about Australian basketball player Christopher Lane, who was gunned down by 3 teenagers while out for a jog.
According to police reports, the boys, ages 15-17, "just wanted to kill somebody" and Lane was in the unfortunate position to be that somebody. How chilling is that?
How do you just decide to kill somebody? What has happened to you that you have become so desensitized that going out and murdering someone, ending someone’s life, seems like a viable option?
Does it feel like a video game? You’ve killed so many people in “Call Of Duty” or some other game that it doesn’t feel real? (Trust me, I don’t think anything like that happens in a void. There are millions of people who play violent video games and they totally understand the difference between killing someone in a game and killing someone in real life.)
My trying to get into these kids’ heads isn’t an attempt to justify their actions by any means. It’s an attempt to figure out where we have gone so off the rails as a society that anyone can think popping off a round of gunfire at an innocent, random person on a lark is OK. Deciding that they’re sociopaths seems too easy. It sounds so trite, but when I read the story, Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues" popped into my head and the line, "But I shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die." Did these kids just want to watch someone die?
It’s been interesting to read message boards today. Many folks instantly called for greater gun control, while others took the old (and very tired) tact of you can't stop someone who's crazy from committing a crazy act and “Guns don’t kill people, people do." Well, actually, cowards with guns kill people. Who knows if these kids had not had guns if they would have hopped out of their car and randomly beaten Lane to death. Somehow I doubt it.
I watched an Oklahoma television news report today that brought up “the younger generation’s lack of moral values.” Really? I have lots of friends with teenagers and none of those kids “lack moral values” because of their age. I’m not so sure that “lack of moral values” coincides with someone’s birth date.
We don’t know what the deeper issue was that caused these children to drive around looking for someone to shoot and maybe it doesn’t matter. It won’t bring Lane back. But I know I’d feel a lot better if kids who have killing on their minds (or anyone of any age, for that matter) didn’t find it so easy to grab a gun.
Today’s $10 goes to Stop Handgun Violence, a Boston-based non-profit committed to, according to its website, “the prevention of gun violence through education, public awareness, effective law enforcement and common sense gun laws.” Stop Handgun Violence flashes some stats across its home page and they’re daunting (though I’m not aware of the source): More than 150 people in America are shot every day, 83 of them die. One child dies from gunfire ever 3 hours.
Aug. 20: Stop Handgun Violence