There’s a popular children’s book featuring Grover from Sesame Street titled There’s a Monster at the End of This Book! I remember reading this book to my daughter when she was little. Throughout the book, loveable furry Grover begs the reader not to turn the page for fear that there is a monster at the end of the book. At the end, Grover says, “oops, I am so embarrassed” because the monster at the end of the book is none other than Grover himself.
Children are afraid of monsters. But then, so are adults. Oh we may not believe in gigantic furry creatures with claws, be we are afraid of human monsters…those seemingly less than human people who hurt, maim, and kill other human beings. When good people die senselessly, we look for the monster. We’re still looking for the monster(s) responsible for the JFK assassination because we can’t believe that a little twerp like Lee Harvey Oswald could be responsible for such a heinous deed. People are still looking for the monsters responsible for Princess Diana’s tragic car crash. In the aftermath of the killings at Columbine HS and at Virginia Tech, you could almost feel a palpable sense of relief in the American psyche when it was revealed that the young men responsible for those killings were such social misfits: clearly monsters waiting to attack.
Now, we have Steven Kazmierczak who killed 5 people and injured numerous others at Northern Illinois University last week. Authorities still don’t really know what set him off. Indications are that he struggled with some mental illness but so do countless millions of Americans. We will keep searching until we dig up something that shows us he was a monster so that we can all relax knowing that there is a huge chasm between creatures like him and ourselves.
However, we are not finding any evidence that he was a monster. What he did was monstrous but the frightening reality is that Stephen Kazmierczak apparently was not all that different from most of us. Something pushed him over a line that most of us do not cross but that we all brush up against in our lives. I say all this because I have heard that some people’s bright idea of how to “solve” the problem of campus shootings is to allow students to carry concealed weapons. The people who advocate this believe in monsters. They believe that “normal” people will be able to protect themselves with concealed weapons should monsters appear on campus. They don’t realize that they will simply be putting guns in the hands of more people like Stephen Kazmierczak – people who are basically normal until something pushes them over a line and they can easily reach into their holster and use their weapon to release their rage.
There are no monsters at the end of this story. Just ourselves. Let’s not arm ourselves with the weapons that make it so easy for normally law-abiding citizens to cross that line.