April 24, 2018

Time to Seek Input From the Next Generation on Guns

Guest Contributor: David Gutstein

One day when I was in high school at the Ida Crown Jewish Academy, a quiet and peaceful religious institution on Chicago’s North Side, one of the students brought a gun to school. He used it to threaten my friend Jon, who he thought had “ratted him out” for a prank he pulled on one of the Rabbis.  
Sometime before, this kid had super-glued the Rabbi’s pen to his desk and in one of those memorable high school moments, the Rabbi struggled, in a cartoonish fashion, to free his pen from the desk eliciting amazement and laughter from me and my classmates. For this and numerous other infractions, my gun-toting school acquaintance ended up in detention and blamed Jon.  
That one day in the hallway, he told me and several others that he found the gun at home and heavily intimated that he would use it if Jon crossed him again. I recall how shiny and silvery the gun looked as my initial sense of shock morphed into entertainment. I am embarrassed to admit we thought it was a joke. Hilarious! That guy is crazy! Totally nuts!  
Then we went about our respective days without so much of a thought about what ever happened to the gun. It turned out it was a starter pistol capable only of firing blanks, but that’s beside the point. None of us would have been concerned if it were an actual weapon.  
We were all completely na├»ve, convinced gun violence in schools was limited to gangs on the South Side. Never did we imagine that someone we knew could come to school and shoot one or more of us. Our exposure to guns was limited to what we saw on screen, where bad guys shot good guys, who always survived to triumph in the end.  
After the recent school shootings, I have thought about this incident and what it might mean in a broader sense. It strikes me that the generation currently deciding policy for our country may share the same level of naivete as I and my friends.  
Maybe we have been desensitized through TV, movies and marketing to ignore the obvious hazard represented by firearms. Perhaps the younger generation has a healthier respect for the danger of weapons borne out of bitter experience. Perhaps it’s time we listened to what they have to say on the issue.

David Gutstein is a high school graduate of Ida Crown Jewish Academy and a college graduate from Northwestern. He is currently a medical researcher and head of Kidney and Heart research at Johnson and Johnson.

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