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Life out here — A viewpint by Bret Kofford: How long will our luck last?

March 07, 2001

When one of the near victims in the latest school shootings is a longtime friend, a man I love and admire and consider damn close to being a family member, maybe it is time to raise the white flag.

A man who will always be close to my heart, a man with whom I have shared beers and tears and basketball sweat and blood, an hermano in heart and soul, was teaching at Santana High School in Santee on Monday when a young man on the campus — yes, another young man on another campus — started shooting people. My buddy and his sister-in-law, another friend who teaches at Santana, were not hit. That was pure happenstance, pure luck. My friend was within feet of the shooting. It turns out he was one of the heroes protecting kids. I'm not surprised.

How long, though, will our luck last here in the Imperial Valley? Santee is what, an hour and a half from the Valley? These school shootings are getting closer and closer — Oregon, Stockton, Santee. Is it only a matter of time before a disaffected, scorned and angry little guy gets a gun and shoots up one of our Valley campuses?


I would like to think I have a special concern because my wife is a vice principal at a local high school and my son will be entering high school next year. Many of our adult friends are in the educational community, and through coaching and involvement in many of my son's activities, I have come to know and care about many young people around here.

But I am wrong about that. I am not unique. We all suffer when such hell on earth happens. We all suffer the pain and terror and hole-in-the-gut anxiety about what has gone wrong in our society.

Such rampages have become so rampant in our nation, so commonplace, that many teens are keeping their composure remarkably well when Hades unfolds. One teen, with spiked hair, earrings in both ears and a wonderful vocabulary, a high school junior named John Schardt, gave reports to television crews shortly after the shooting, doing so in detail and vernacular that would make Sam Donaldson proud. John talked about how when the shooting started he and another student got a still camera and video camera and started doing their own shooting of the shooter.

John's calm was not uncommon among those students interviewed after the shootings. He was more the rule than the exception.

Our kids are becoming that hardened to this mayhem. It's as if our high school students have become trained, seasoned war correspondents. That is what we adults have wrought on our kids.

Some will blame guns. Some (idiots) will blame a lack of guns. Some will blame television and movies and the news media. Some will blame the lack of God in school.

Some will call for school vouchers. Some will call for metal detectors. Some will call for more police officers and more German shepherds on campuses. Some will call for the return of prayer to the classroom.

Hell, I don't know the answers. No one does. It does say a lot about our society that a 15-year-old boy can get a gun and enough ammunition to kill two people and wound 13. It says a lot about our society that cops found seven more guns in his home after the shooting.

We could try to collect all the guns from all the gun nuts around the nation, and that might help stop school shootings, but more people would get killed in the attempted gun collection than would be saved in the long run from a lack of guns on the streets and in our schools, so that idea will never work.

I do know this. When I was in high school 25 years ago, there were alienated, angry kids like the ones doing the school shootings now. Back in those days, though, such young people didn't come to school and shoot everyone in sight. They didn't even consider the prospect.

Something has changed, but I'm not sure what that something is. If I said I knew the answer to this mess I would be as full of crap as all those people who claim they have the answer.

So I am done suggesting solutions for this sad societal sensation. No more calls for gun control. It will never happen in this country. No more serious columns or parodies calling for less violence on television and in the movies. No more satires about issuing body armor with little giraffe and pony designs to kindergartners.

All I can hope for is that when the next school shooting strikes close to home, that my friends and loved ones are not harmed.

And yes, I realize just how pathetic that wish is.

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