Excerpt from The Extension, Spring 2019
By Mary Kenton
Growing up in the ’50s, I pledged the flag every morning, learned to march like a soldier in gym class, and knew all the words to the “Marines’ Hymn.” I liked Ike well enough, though most of my family were Democrats. Once a plane fell out of the sky and almost hit Beavercreek High School, we practiced nuclear attack drills, but guns were not an issue. I never once thought, much less worried, about getting shot at school.
I was probably 15 years old before I saw an actual gun. No one I knew had guns, or if they did, they were well concealed. A little later I learned to shoot both a Colt target pistol and a shotgun, though I never pointed a gun at a living thing, I lived for many years in a house with a cabinet full of guns and never felt unsafe about having them around. We didn’t hunt or shoot much; they were mostly decorative. But we joked they might be handy “come the revolution.”
First it was John Kennedy, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bobby Kennedy, and then the near fatal attack on President Reagan. No more joking around. Political assassination attempts declined, but attacks on schools escalated. Columbine, Virginia Tech—the list became numbing. I started to worry about getting shot at Wright State. We devised an informal plan in Honors for an “active shooter.” I started thinking about it when I sat in a restaurant; I always wanted to know where the exits were, especially in movie theatres.
The tears that I was usually able to blink back started to flow with Sandy Hook. My granddaughters were 5 and 3, and I was horrified they would hear about it on TV, see the heartbreaking photos of the murdered children. I called their mother and told her not to turn on the set for at least a week. Everyone thought things would be different after Sandy Hook. But nothing was. The attacks on schools continue with alarming regularity. As of May 10, the US has endured 8 school shootings in 2019.
Lately, I struggle not to sob out loud when I see interviews with the grieving parents whose son threw himself on the shooter to save his classmates. My car radio is tuned to WYSO, and recently as I was driving down US Route 35 to Dayton, I heard an NPR story about a little boy—a sixth grader—who clutched a baseball bat as he and his classmates took shelter in a closet with their teacher. The gunman was just outside their classroom. His words started the tears to stream down my face as I drove. In his little sixth grade voice he said he kept his hand on the metal bat “Cause I was going to go down fighting if I was going to go down.”
Nicholas Kristof’s May 9 column enumerates grim statistics about gun deaths in America. He goes on to outline some sensible Second Amendment friendly ways we might begin dealing with this perennial problem. I don’t know all the answers, but I am absolutely certain this carnage is not what the Founders require of us.