New York Times
Why America Lets the Killings Continue
Published: December 14, 2012

MY wife and I learned about the Connecticut school shootings on our way home from the cemetery, where we had just finished observing the 20th anniversary of our son's murder.

Our son Galen, who was 18, and a teacher were killed on Dec. 14, 1992, by a deranged student who went on a shooting rampage at Simon's Rock College in western Massachusetts. Galen was a gifted kid, and Simon's Rock seemed like the perfect place for him. He'd never been happier. The killer had a vastly different reaction to this environment. After run-ins with college officials, he vowed to "bring the college to its knees." He bought an SKS at a gun shop down the road, and obtained oversize clips and ammunition through the mail.

In the wake of Galen's murder, I wrote a book about the shooting. In it I suggested that we view gun crime as a public health issue, much the same as smoking or pesticides. I spent a number of years attending rallies, signing petitions, writing letters and making speeches, but eventually I gave up. Gun control, such a live issue in the "early" days of school shootings, inexplicably became a third-rail issue for politicians.
I came to realize that, in essence, this is the way we in America want things to be. We want our freedom, and we want our firearms, and if we have to endure the occasional school shooting, so be it. A terrible shame, but hey didn't some guy in China just do the same thing with a knife?

Still, whatever your position on gun control, it is impossible not to react with horror to news of the shootings in Connecticut. Our horror is nuanced by knowledge of what those families are going through, and what they will have to endure in years to come.

More horrible still to me at least is the inevitable lament, "How could we have let this happen?"

It is a horrible question because the answer is so simple. Make it easy for people to get guns and things like this will happen.

Children will continue to pay for a freedom their elders enjoy.

Gregory Gibson is the author of "Gone Boy: A Father's Search for the Truth in His Son's Murder."


Our Violent Inner Landscape


Published: April 11, 1999

Monday night I got home from a long business trip. I was going to watch a video of the new British production of ''Richard III'' that someone had left me, but as I was turning on the television, I caught a spectacular explosion, some gunfire and a half-naked body darting across the screen. It was Rambo. I slumped on the couch and my road-frazzled nerves relaxed at last, adrift in a comforting sea of macho inanity. So much for ''Richard III.''

What makes this a bit odd is that in 1992 my 18-year-old son, Galen, was murdered at the door of his college library, the random victim of a disturbed fellow student who had gone on what the newspapers referred to as a ''campus shooting spree.'' The weapon the killer used, a cheap, imported semiautomatic rifle, was similar to the weapons used at Columbine High School in at least this respect: It was inexpensive and readily obtainable by teen-agers.

Since Tuesday's killings in Littleton, Colo., much has already been written about the shameful availability of such weapons, about the horrific rise in the number of school shootings, about campus safety, about how we should monitor students more carefully, and about all the other steps we might take to avoid such incidents. We're anguished, and we're asking ourselves ''Why?'' over and over.

But I've been asking a different question. I've been asking myself what that Rambo movie did for me on Monday night. I mean, I've been there. I have intimate knowledge of that excruciating territory the parents of those children in Colorado are traversing. Yet, I am still capable of relaxing with an hour's worth of some overmuscled action hero shooting up a town. It's easy to talk about the prevalence of violence in our society, but it's shocking to realize that that same violence is in me, somehow. Hard-wired.

Certainly, it's my problem, one of a resplendent array, but I've got a feeling this one is not unique to me. I've got a feeling this problem is embedded in our culture, way beyond bad movies and cheap guns. It is as transparent as the air we breathe. It's in our history. It's in the myths we tell ourselves about ourselves. If we see it at all, we celebrate it. We relax to it. We've made industries of it.

As always, it is the kids who have that instinctive grasp of what the grown-ups are really saying, what the words truly mean, where the lies are. It might be the sickest kids, the neediest among them, who have taken our biggest lies and thrust them back at us, bloody and terrible.

I don't know what to do about this problem. I'm not even sure what it is. I just keep thinking, over and over, that if I could find the answer to my Rambo question, I'd have a start on that bigger one.

Copyright 1999 The New York Times Company

Gregory Gibson is the author of the ''Gone Boy: A Walkabout,'' a book about his search for answers after his son's murder.

Times Site



April 12, 2000, Wednesday

New York Times
National Desk

Man and His Son's Slayer Unite to Ask Why


The envelope was hand-addressed. When Gregory Gibson glimpsed it one afternoon in November, mixed in with the junk mail and the bills, he knew right away what it was. The return address was a post office box in Norfolk, Mass., near Boston where, Mr. Gibson knew all too well, there is a state prison.

His son's killer was getting in touch.

Visit the New York Times Archives for the entire article. Search for: "Galen Gibson".