This article appeared in the Standard-Times of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 4/6/98
Page B4, Opinion; Copyright 1998 by Beth David

This is a chilling junior version of domestic violence

In December of 1989 a man with a rifle walked into an engineering classroom of the University of Montreal. He told the women "You're all (expletive deleted) feminists." He killed 14 women and injured nine more.

We called the Montreal Massacre a hate crime. They said we overreacted. But Marc Lepine had killed three women in the cafeteria, one in an office, four in one classroom and six in another. No one could deny that he had targeted women -- he'd ordered the men out of the way before shooting.

Even after this calculated attack, the experts declared him a nut who "snapped," blaming women for his own failures. In December of 1997, a 14-year-old boy killed three girls in Paducah, Kentucky. Two months earlier, a 16-year-old killed his mother and two high school girls in Pearl, Mississippi. In both cases, other students described a dead girl as a "good friend" or an "ex-girlfriend" of the shooter.

The headlines read "students" killed. It seemed that only the unreasonable feminists noticed that no boys had died. I even wrote a letter to the Standard-Times about it. Some people laughed so hard they almost hurt themselves. They assured me that these boys had just "snapped" and fired randomly into a crowd.

But what does it tell girls when we dismiss it as mere coincidence? And now there's Jonesboro, Arkansas. Two boys, aged 11 and 13, killed four girls and a woman shielding a 12-year-old girl. Sixteen people were shot -- two of them boys. You'd think someone declared open season on human females, the younger the better. Suddenly, everyone's asking how to stop it.

For decades women have been told that we can't even stop men we KNOW are violent. Judges routinely send women away with a simple "good luck." The only advice is to understand that once you decide to leave, your chances of getting killed increase. We do, however, promise to arrest him after you're dead.

And now you want to know how to predict violence from little boys? Let's start by paying attention. Because inevitably as the story unfolds, we'll see that the signs were there all along. Just as when Carl Drega shot up a small town in northern New Hampshire, the first reports said no one could've predicted it. But very quickly we learned that Vickie Bunnell had predicted it. And he killed her.

So how could we have predicted violence from this 11-year-old boy curled up on his grandmother's lap and saying he's tired? Anyone who's spent any time with children knows they imitate adults. But it's hard to blame TV or movies. By the time she was 2 my niece knew the difference between "cartoon hurt" (her words) and real hurt. Kids imitate real adults -- not cartoons and not Bruce Willis. And real men kill real women every day. Why is it such a leap of logic that boys would kill girls?

Remember that these are children. Yes, dangerous children. Yes, children who probably should not go free at age 18 -- but will. They say kids are cruel. But how cruel is it to slap a life sentence on an 11-year-old and make him live his adolescence among adult prisoners? Changing the law to treat them as adults won't help. Changing the juvenile law to treat them as humans might.

Is my bleeding heart asking you to cry for these killers? You bet it is. Let yourself cry as you imagine this little boy sitting on the edge of a cot, all alone, able to hug his grandmother only when the local sheriff says so.

Let us all cry, lest we become as heartless as a cruel little boy with a real gun. Boys begin life just as small and frail and gentle and loving as girls. It's what WE do to them that creates the hair-pulling, towel-snapping trouble-makers that a boys-will-be-boys world needs.

New reports about girls' aggressiveness slowly catching up with that of boys seem to bear this out. Are we going to wait until all of our kids are killers before we universally teach the gentle ways of sugar and spice and everything nice?

And, what about gun safety education? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but these were not accidents. Should we ban guns entirely? I've got a better idea. Let's only allow females (of all ages) to own guns. After all, we need the protection more than men anyway.

Did a ripple of fear just wend its way through the male population? I thought so. So tell me, how does it feel?


Beth David owns YASNY Designs in Fairhaven.