We were living only 60km away when the Columbine High School massacre took place in Colorado, USA, 14 years ago. It was one of the world's most shocking school shooting sprees. Since then, more than a dozen shooting massacres have horrified the world, including those at Virginia Tech in 2007, Northern Illinois University in 2008, Albertville Secondary School in Winnenden, Germany, in 2009 and Utoya Island youth camp in Buskerud, Norway, in 2011.
Then in July last year a gunman armed with several weapons shot at a cinema audience in Aurora, Colorado, killing a dozen people. The crime scene was less than 2km from a place I had called home for four years and right behind the bus stop which I regularly used on school days.
In the aftermath of the movie-night shooting, gun control activists in the US went on the alert. Then, sadly, two months ago, we heard about an even more sickening incident at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, where 20 children aged between six and seven were among those shot dead by an intruder. My son has just turned eight, and I could understand how much pain the families of the victims had to go through.
When such unbearable crimes occur, two things always trouble my mind: What has happened to gun control legislation that allows such terrible crimes to happen again and again? And what has gone wrong with the mentality of people like myself who feel that shooting sprees are not just common, but inevitable?
I don't think I have any smart comments concerning gun policies _ here or in another country. So you can stop reading now if you're expecting me to discuss the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution.
The only time I have fired a gun was at a junior marksmanship course at a YMCA summer camp decades ago, and I simply regard a gun as a dangerous item, just as how my boy has been taught to perceive matches and knives.
For me, the scenario of gun possession gone wrong is similar to that of a young child playing with matches who accidentally burns down her house. Many adults claim "self defence" as a reason to legitimately own firearms, but too often their possession has led to the loss of loved ones rather than fending off assailants.
Unless they are cops, gun professionals or living in a combat zone, I don't see any good reason why ordinary families should possess firearms. A weapon in a household is nothing but a time bomb, whose detonation is easily triggered by the carelessness and naivete of one of the family members.
I even doubt if I would take out a gun, if I ever had one, only when it's absolutely necessary (like seeing an intruder or feeling that I was going to be physically assaulted _ duh _ by stranger) and not when my husband refuses to accompany me to the shops. Nor could I be sure that he, too, wouldn't use it on me for my constant nagging.
Most people who carry guns also feel they have special powers and rights. Instead of cursing someone because they rudely cut in front of you on the road, you might just shoot them _ easy. The more "authority" a gun may grant you, the more it deprives you of sensibility. Guns are only for those who have been properly trained _ professionally and mentally.
So don't try to get one if you're not.
Over the past few years, however, what's more frightful than the litany of horrible news is realising how such news can permanently alter _ or should I say damage _ our minds.
I can recall being completely aghast at the Columbine bloodbath in 1999. And yet I have to admit that my compassion for the Sandy Hook Elementary School bloodshed last year, although my son is the same age as most of the innocent victims, didn't reach that level.
It seems that no matter how sickening the news is, my mind has become so familiar with violence that it almost feels no pain anymore. I have become less and less sensitive, regarding killing more or less as a norm. If violent news can make a law-abiding mother like me become so cold-hearted, it's even more terrifying to imagine how it could make violence-prone people go even more berserk.
Vanniya Sriangura is a senior writer and food columnist for the Life section of the Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Vanniya Sriangura
Position: News Reporter