The Right To Live

Their names (in alphabetical order) are:  George Chen (age 19), Katherine Cooper (22), Cheng Hong (20), Christopher Michaels-Martinez (20), Weihan Wang (20), and Veronika Weiss (19). Two women, four men … daughters and sons, each with a unique story of hope and potential … and each one’s life abruptly ended by the soulless act of a self-absorbed narcissistic killer. Their pictures (shown from an online tribute) show carefree, smiling faces, typical examples of eager, playful young people unafraid of tackling their lives head-on. I doubt a one of them anticipated this.


Following the deaths, one of the parents quickly raged − “Why?” − and then he added an even stronger reaction for the media to immortalize. In part, he said:  “What about [my son’s] right to live?” No doubt, he verbalized thoughts each of the parents had agonized over. I can’t imagine I’d have been capable of speech (certainly not coherent speech) at such a time, and I am dumbfounded to think of the pain of their losses.

However, as a life member of the NRA (on whom the parent cast partial blame), I think a measure of balance is essential. Why is it we in America choose to be so narrow-minded about firearms? Yes, narrow-minded and inexplicably naive. We think if we surround ourselves with Gun-Free Zones that we − and more importantly, our children  −  will be instantly sheltered from possible harm. Yet time after time, it is the very “gun-free zones” we’ve blocked off, zones populated by our precious children (whether at an elementary school or a college) where bad actors insist on perpetrating their crimes!Franklin on duh

Further, this murderous individual engaged in a crime of opportunity and designed his rampage for its most sensational impact. All three of the man’s roommates were apparently close at hand; news reports reflect he killed them in the apartment where they lived. We teach our children to beware strangers, but shouldn’t living arrangements for college-aged men and women be scrutinized for similar stranger-danger? Parents make a foolish assumption that sending their adult-children to college means they’ve moved beyond the age of danger. Not so … as this tragedy proved.

Another aspect of this crime of opportunity:  the secured door of a sorority house effectively convinced the gunman to go elsewhere in search of more convenient and readily available targets. The murderer was looking for easy targets. Because his “aggressive knocking” was ignored, he walked away, wandering just around the corner where he came upon other lives to destroy.

I hate talking about this man and his heinous behavior, but I think it’s crucial that we remember the young people who died at his hand. They did have the “right to live.” That right was stolen from them! They are not the first  − nor the last  −  to have their lives carelessly snuffed out by a bad actor. We must not forget them.

But here’s my most important point:  Do not give this knife-wielding gunman a pass! DO NOT! Blaming his behavior on the NRA or “craven, irresponsible politicians” or even blaming his parents is an open invitation to other bad actors to continue committing such crimes! They won’t be blamed. They’ll have a moment of infamy and a place in history books, but their crimes won’t be directly imputed to them:  they were abused in childhood, their parents (or school teachers) treated them cruelly, their siblings (or school mates) made fun of them. It’s always someone else’s fault that the bad actor chooses evil, don’t you know? Perhaps if we would just take the time to understand them and their deeds, we’d be able to prevent future bad actors?

NO! NO! NO! That’s something this individual apparently never learned! Daily appointments with a therapist didn’t resolve his bad behavior. He had plenty of “understanding.” His social alienation seems to have grown, even as professionals continued their efforts to understand him! Such nonsense!

In this case, the murdering perpetrator was given a pass repeatedly, all his life. Parents, nannies, siblings, therapists and teachers all made allowances for a child who aged into boyhood and eventually to manhood without ever having to be culpable of anything! He aged, but he never developed as an adult with strong adult impulse control! The willingness of professionals to give this boy-man a pass, in spite of his clearly harmful, antisocial actions, allowed him to become an egomaniac who never had to answer for his own behavior. Do not give him a pass!

Blame this man for his crimes … he wielded a knife, machete, or ax to kill three men, wielded a pistol to dispose of another man and two young women, all of them unsuspecting and pretty much defenseless (as well as others who were injured). Forget his name, expunge it from any history book or newspaper, and never speak the name again. He wielded the knife and he pulled the trigger; he did so with malice aforethought. The inanimate tools he used did not commit crimes; a man committed these crimes. Never forget the difference, and …