Several years back, a gang war erupted in our small city. A young mentally disabled child was killed by gunfire, and the war grew out of hand. My husband and I were shopping with the children in the local mall when the battle came to its peak. There was fighting, and guns and knives were being waved around as we tried to protect our boys. The stores closed their doors locking us amidst the violent altercation. All my husband and I could do to protect our boys was back them into a corner and shield them with our bodies. Officers soon got the skirmish under control, and we were directed out of the mall. I never realized until now, that it was a good two years before I would walk through those mall doors once again.
Though it was a horrifying experience, I never thought that I would hear of a person shooting at police officers in my town. But, it did happen, and the result was the loss of the life to the local business man along with the discovery of 131 firearms and 63,000 rounds of ammunition. The gunman's family members are in mourning, and the officer who had been left with little choice but to fire back is undergoing the required treatment for officers that take a life. Two families are in turmoil because of this needless altercation.
My mind was still reeling about the battle that ensued on the other side of the freeway from my home. I thought of how lucky we are to be safe from gun violence when the news broke about Newtown, Connecticut. I cannot begin to imagine how the parents must feel. As I watched the news in terror, tears flowed freely from my eyes. Those poor innocent babies, teachers, and faculty ~ Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison N. Wyatt.
Today, the news is still engrossed with coverage for the horrifying massacre. My heart aches for the family and friends of the children and faculty of the small school, as it aches for the family and friends of the gunman. We could never understand what drove him to draw one of his four guns on the students and teachers ending their lives. What traumatic event did this young man undergo to make him feel the need to take the lives of others? It was recently released he was the victim of bullying at a school he attended. Could this be the reason for his mental anguish?
I am further horrified at the probable repercussions toward children and adults with autism due to guessing game the media is irresponsibly playing about the possible mental health issues the gunman may or may not have had. I have extensively researched, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Reactive Attachment Disorders (RAD) both in University and through my employment as a Child Protective Services Investigator. Each of these four disorders are often misdiagnosed, meaning a person with these disorders exhibit traits with another one of these disorders. I find it hard to believe that this man had an ASD, as children with an ASD are less likely to be violent toward other people. For a matter of fact, most people with an ASD are likely to be law abiding citizens and have a need to follow laws and rules.
If people with autism do exhibit violent tendencies, it is more likely to be in the form of a self-injurious behavior or an INSTANTANEOUS outburst due to SUDDEN frustration and stress. They are not likely to plan out a violent event. The truth is, no one is certain whether this man had any of these disorders because diagnoses can be incorrect; but it is more likely that it would have been a disorder that a symptom is a risk taking behavior such as ADHD, RAD, or bipolar disorder. I want to make it quite clear that I am not saying all people with these disorders are dangerous. Anyone, even people with no history of mental illness or mental health issues, can snap, just as they all can be perfectly fine.
My fears are founded as my son with autism has worked so hard throughout his life to be accepted, and now, we fear that people are going to treat him like there is something wrong with him because of the media's quick response to put the blame off on autism. Just to think that all of these 17 years of hard work for my son could be all taken away because of one man's actions and the media's misrepresentation of autism breaks my heart.
Regardless, it is clear that something is very wrong with this country. While I was learning of our local gunfire incident, I also learned of the mall shooting in Oregon, where Cindy Ann Yuille and Steven Forsyth lost their lives. Then, of course there is the Newton incident on Friday. Saturday, California was rocked by the gunfire at an open air mall where twenty shots were fired in the air luckily not hitting anyone. Sunday night, two police officers, Corporal David Gogian and Jeff Atherly, were shot in the head and killed by a gunman in the parking lot of a grocery store in Kansas. This shooter has lost his life in another standoff with police officers in Topeka, Kansas. In November, a thirteen year old girl, Lourdes Guzman, was shot and killed in front of her seven year old sister on a private school bus in Florida.
We, as a country, still have not healed from the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin where Bhai Seeta Singh, Bhai Parkash Singh, Bhai Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Subegh Singh, and Parmjit Kaur Toor lost their lives. We still have not healed from the Aurora theater shooting where Jonathon Blunk, Alexander "AJ" Boik, Jessie Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, Rebecca Wingo, and the unborn child of Ashley Moser lost their lives, as well as the numerous people injured (Petra Anderson, Adan Avila, Brandon Axelrod, Tony Billipando, Christina Blanche, Maria Carbonell, Alejandra Cardona-Lamas, Louis Duran, Craig Enlund, Alex Expinoza, Jacqueline Fry, Yousef Gharbi, Zachary Golditch, Munirah Gravelly, Eugene Han, Jay Jenkins, Bonnie Kate, Jasmine Kennedy, Marcus Kizzar, Patricia Legaretta, Brenton Lowak, Ryan Lumba, Caleb Medley, Ashley Moser, Stephen Moton, Joshua Nowlan, Pierce O'Farrill, Prodeo Patria, Rita Paulina, Christopher Rapoza, Carli Richards, Dion Roseborough, Carey Rottman, Lucas Smith, Heather Snyder, Ferrah Soudana, Catherine Streib, Jamison Toews, Denise Traynom-Axelrod, Marcus Weaver, Michael White, David Williams, Allie Young, Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler, Gage Hankins, Mckayla Hicks, Stephen Barton, Nickelas Gallup, Evan Farris, Jennifer Avila, Jarrell Brooks, Amanda Hernandez-Memije, Kelly Lewis, Bonnie Pourcian, Anggiat Mora, Ethan Rohrs, and Nathan Juranek).
These are only a few of the violent shootings that have rocked our country and ripped at the hearts of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends country wide. I have no answers as to what should be done. I have no clue what motivates people to take the lives of innocent people. I do know that all of the people who have fell victim to such violence need to be remembered because once we realize that this could have been us, and it could be our families suffering, then, and only then, can we do something to attempt to end the violence.
Original Poem by Isha Jade
Facts About Autism:
Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV Matthew 19:14)