"You know what school I wish I went to?
Sandy Hook Elementary."
Why "Perry Hall" is not in the National Lexicon
By Joseph Ganem, Ph.D.
Early in the morning of Monday August 27, 2012, 15-year old Robert Gladden Jr. packed his bag for the first day of his sophomore year at Perry Hall high school in northeast Baltimore County. In it he placed the parts of his father's gun that he had disassembled the night before, 21 rounds of ammunition, and a bottle of vodka. He arrived at school and attended his first three classes. At 10:25 AM he went to the cafeteria for lunch, opened his backpack and showed some of the students the gun parts inside. He advised his friends to leave. Two students sitting with Gladden, did get up to leave, but were confronted by teachers who questioned where they were going. One student told the teachers "I can't talk right now," hurried away, and left the building, the other student obeyed and returned to the cafeteria. Neither student said anything to the teachers about the weapon.
Gladden excused himself to go the bathroom, where he re-assembled and loaded the gun. He then tucked it under his shirt, and returned to the cafeteria. Standing in the room crowded with hundreds of students, he pulled the gun out, lowered the barrel and opened fire.
Gladden intended that morning to kill as many people as he could. We know that from his words recorded on video during a police interrogation later that day. The full recording of his confession is posted online.
In the conversation with Baltimore County police detectives, Gladden in an eerily calm manner describes in chilling detail his actions that day and his motivations. He brought 21 rounds with him because that was all the ammunition his father had in the house. He planned on using it all with the last round saved for him. Suicide had been on his mind for years and he had a suicide note in his pocket. In it he wrote: "Lifes (sic) just not something I enjoy, I hate people. I was just gonna off myself but then realized that, I'd rather make a point." In the police interview he said the shooting was "to make a point. That the world is a fucked-up place." In his words he wanted to "off" as many people as possible before killing himself.
But despite Gladden's intentions, "Perry Hall" is not in the national lexicon today, in the way that the words "Newtown," "Columbine," "Virginia Tech," and "Aurora" are. It is worth examining and reflecting on why. The reason is the kind of weapon that Gladden had access to. He did not come to school that day with an assault rifle or a semi-automatichandgun and multiple high-capacity ammunition clips. The weapon he took from his father the night before was a double-barreled Western Field shotgun and the ammunition 21 individual shells.
When Gladden opened fire the first round struck 17-year old Daniel Borowy in the back, grievously wounding him. Then an alert and courageous teacher, Jesse Wasmer, charged and tackled Gladden. In the struggle that ensued the gun discharged a second time into the ceiling. More adults piled on. Within seconds they had Gladden subdued without further injuries. A series of still frames from the school security cameras captures the quick and
heroic actions of the teachers to save the lives of their students. Borowy was rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
that the kinds of weapons disturbed individuals have access to
makes a huge difference in the lethality of their murderous rampages.
The words "Perry Hall" would today bring to mind horrific images of bloody carnage and senseless death in the same way that the words "Newtown" and "Columbine" do. Senators, House Representatives and gun lobbyists, who claim that all guns should be treated equally under the law and that no gun regulations should exist, are demonstrating willful ignorance of the differences between various kinds of guns.
For all the hype surrounding the Second Amendment, it should be noted that the word "gun" never appears, nor does the word appear anywhere else in the Constitution. The Second Amendment states: A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. The plural noun "arms" includes a great variety of weaponry of widely varying lethality. Bayonets, pistols, rifles, machine guns, grenades, mortars, missiles and thermonuclear bombs are all "arms". The government can and does regulate the ownership and sale of arms.
In fact, with the exception of guns, individuals cannot privately own most kinds of armaments and deploy them in their self-defense. You cannot mine your lawn to keep away trespassers, aim a mortar at your neighbor's house if you feel threatened, or mount an anti-aircraft battery on your roof. People do not have a constitutional right to own any "arms" that they desire.
The singling out of guns as being different from all other types of arms, and somehow exempt from any regulations, seems to arise from a self-centered immature way of thinking. The arguments for unfettered, unregulated, universal, instant access to any kind of gun ring with self-righteous indignation. In the aftermath of Newtown, sales of assault rifles and high capacity ammunition clips soared as gun enthusiasts rushed to buy these weapons simply because many fellow citizens said they shouldn't be able to buy these kinds of weapons. Reasonable suggestions for background checks to screen out the mentally disturbed are denounced as "inconveniencing" and placing an "unnecessary burden" on law-abiding gun buyers. Gun advocates regard any law regulating the sale of guns, no matter how reasonable or benign, as an intolerable infringement on their civil rights.
We send our children to school, in part, to learn how to transition from their youthful self-centeredness to the mature understanding of their relationships to others that will be expected of them as adults. In the adult world, your rights come with responsibilities and all of your constitutional rights have limits. Laws that benefit the whole of society will inconvenience you at times. Your needs and desires are not all that matters because other people exist too. Compromise is a necessary part of any negotiation because other people's goals are different than yours. What is deeply troubling is that the Senators and House members who are responsible for governing this country appear incapable of thinking and acting like adults.
Despite his 15 years of age, Robert Gladden Jr. was charged as an adult with attempted first-degree murder. When the Newtown massacre happened on December 14, 2012, he was in a Baltimore County Jail. Afterwards he stated in a recorded call from the jail with a cousin: "You know what school I wish I went to? Sandy Hook Elementary." In February 2013 Gladden pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. The sentence went way beyond the state guidelines of 20-30 years. In handing down the stiffer sentence, the judge called Gladden's comments about the Newtown massacre "unforgivable."
Daniel Borowy survived and recovered from his wounds. His mother says that Daniel, who has Down's syndrome, does not fully comprehend what happened. Less than two months after the shooting, on October 7, 2012, Daniel Borowy joined Jesse Wasmer on the field at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Before a sell-out crowd and national television audience for an Oriole post-season game, Wasmer threw out the ceremonial first pitch - a public acknowledgment for his heroism during the shooting.
(Editor's Note: While in the process of publishing this guest post below by Dr. Joseph Ganem,
I could not help but relate it to a quote from yesterday's Daughter of Slain Sandy Hook Principal Confronts Senator Kelly Ayotte:
Let us know what you think. Also check out Morning Joe's segment below about the Ayotte defense. - C.J. Westerberg)"After the vote two weeks ago, the New Hampshire Republican, a former prosecutor, expressed concern that expanded background checks could harm the rights of gun owners.
'I'm just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn't as important,' Lafferty said, according to WMUR-TV."
Education Secretary To Discuss Gun Control At Baltimore County School