by | Mar 5, 2000 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

A6-year-old is dead, and it is your child. It is the child you have loved. It is the child you tucked under the covers and kissed good night.

What is your child’s name?

That is this child’s name.

They called you at work. They said, “Your child was shot by a classmate.” You rushed to the school. You gasped at the bloody body.

What is your child’s name?

That is this child’s name.

You cried and you wept. You planned a funeral. You stood over the casket. So small, the box was.

What is your child’s name?

That is this child’s name.

Imagine this. Believe it for a terrible moment. Not some faraway figure. Not some member of the other class. Your child.

And your child is dead.

Now, grieving and angry, you hear the arguments.

“This kid who killed your child was a bad seed,” they say. “He’d been in trouble before.”

Yes, you say, but without a gun, my child would be alive.

“He had violent tendencies,” they say.

But without a gun, my child would be alive.

“He picked on others. He stabbed a kid with a pencil.”

Yes, you say, but without a gun, he might have hit my child. He might have pushed my child. He might have scratched or thrown a stone or poked a pencil at my child. But he would not have shot my child. And my child would be alive. Isn’t that simple?

“Not so fast,” they say.

Violence on TV

“This kid had no guidance,” they insist. “His father is in jail. His mother just got evicted. He was dumped off to live with a relative in a flophouse full of drugs and bullets and a steady stream of lowlife visitors. No place for a child. The kid was corrupted.”

Yes, you say, but without a gun, he would have been a poor, sympathetic 6-year-old. But he would not have fired a bullet. And my child would be alive.

“Listen,” the voices say, “look at our violent society. Look at movies and TV. Look at video games where creatures murder one another, complete with bloody animation. These things turn our children violent. These things make them desensitized. This kid saw these things. He even said, after the shooting, ‘It kind of happened like it does on TV.’ “

Yes, you say. The programming corrupts. It poisons. But without a gun, this kid has fantasy without reality. He would not have shot a bullet.

And my child would be alive.

“Come on now,” the voices say, “be practical. You can’t take away people’s guns. All that does is remove them from the good people. The crooks will still get them.”

This child was not a crook.

“But the gun he used was stolen.”

Not originally, you say. And if it wasn’t there to steal, it would not have been there to use. If it wasn’t there to use, my child would still be alive. Isn’t that simple?

“Not so fast,” they say.

Violence in society

“We have rights,” they say. “Check the Constitution. Second Amendment. Right to bear arms. Doesn’t that matter to you?”

That was 200 years ago, you say, before concealed weapons and assault rifles and the Internet. That was about a “well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” — not about everyone on my block being able to shoot everyone else.

“But aren’t you afraid of the government?”

Right now, you say, I am more afraid of a 6-year-old.

You think about that, and you start to cry. It is absurd, a 6-year-old murderer. You want your child. The grief is unbearable. It is ripping you apart.

You live in a country where, after Columbine High School, after 11-year-old Nathaniel Abraham and after 6-year-old Kayla Rolland, our lawmakers still will not budge on even registering a gun the way you register a car, or demanding safety locks the way medicine has safety tops, or recalling a single new firearm, even though we recall millions of products the moment they are proved dangerous.

Guns are protected. As for your children? The good news is, this time it was not yours who was shot.

The scary news is, next time, it might be.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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