COLUMN: Stop saying that shooters 'misused' a gun

Shootings are never an accident
Posted at 11:26 AM, Mar 01, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-12 11:37:52-04

Marais Jacon-Duffy is a Web Editor for

I've shot a gun only once, but I'm fairly certain the whole purpose is to hit something with a bullet. And leave a mark, maim it or kill it.

Isn't that the whole point of using a gun? To shoot something?

Why do we say that a 14-year-old boy who deputies said took a gun to school and shot two classmates -- with whatever motive in mind -- "misused" a gun?

A parent who waited to be reunited with his children outside Madison Jr./Sr. High School Monday said the shooting was "a shame" -- not because someone was shot (although I'm sure that was his sentiment).

He said it was "a shame that a gun would be misused that way."

It is a shame, and a traumatic one at that, but the teenager who authorities said set out to harm, and possibly kill, two students in a cafeteria Monday took the best, most effective tool he had access to: a gun.

When we talk about shootings and shooters, we tend to use certain words and phrases that try to tie a bow on the unbelievable situations that have become heartbreakingly common in America -- school shootings.

They're complicated. And messy. But when we say and hear, "It's so important to practice gun safety," or "Well, that's why we keep our gun locked in a safe" -- it disconnects us from school shootings.

We are basically saying, "This will never happen here, because X."

Madison Jr./Sr. High School was no more vulnerable on Monday than any other school. Madison has a school resource officer, and they practice school shooting protocol. They did everything right as a school -- and were praised for how they handled the situation.

But maybe if our communities stop viewing guns as a necessary evil in this world that "don't kill people ... because people kill people," we'll stop finding ourselves in such horrific situations.

Only three days ago, authorities said a 3-year-old shot and killed himself in Dearborn County, Indiana. The young boy's shooting was tragic, but the blame was placed on "irresponsible gun owners" rather than a gun. The boy had no idea what a gun was. Had he decided instead to fiddle with a feather duster or a spatula, he would be alive.

And on Jan. 12 when police said an East Price Hill father shot and killed his son, the shooting was no accident. The father mistook his son for a home intruder. But when he grabbed his gun, he meant to shoot something or someone.

On Monday, a student at Middletown High School was found with a gun as the school went on lockdown. 

Two guns? In the same (generally) quaint and pleasant suburban city? Why do school children think they can -- and should -- carry guns to school?

Maybe these kids feel in control, invincible (what teenager doesn't?), so clearly they're capable of being a "responsible gun owner." Right?

Maybe that's because parents, grandparents, authority figures and politicians are telling our children: "This won't happen to you. This won't happen here. We are responsible with our guns. Our guns can't hurt us."

But that's completely false. Guns hurt people without their consent every single day.

I don't know what the best solution is to curbing (or completely stopping) gun violence in Cincinnati or the country as a whole. But I know words, and I know they can shape the way we view and understand things.

If we keep talking about guns like they're totally safe, trustworthy and only hurt people in special circumstances -- and for reasons that can be explained by irresponsible ownership, ignoring safety protocol or any other excuse -- we're digging ourselves (and our kids) deeper and deeper into denial.

The fact is, guns do kill people.

Let's all not forget that.