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Akst: “It’s the end of the world as we know it …”

I had been looking forward to this column for months.

Besides the numerically cool styling (122112), there’s the Mayan/end-of-the-world thing, the harmonic convergence thing, the fiscal cliff thing, AND I developed an angle to inform and delight.

I planned to reveal that while none of the above was enough for End Days, the cumulative effect of them might be, especially considering one fact about which Daily Chronicle readers were unaware:

My sister Janet’s birthday, today. I was gonna skewer Janet about how her sense of humor contributed to humanity’s demise as a birthday present.

Then, one week ago today, the world did end. The band R.E.M. got it right, but I don’t feel fine.
Not the actual end of the world, obviously, but I wonder if the actual end feels much worse than knowing more than two dozen people – most of them the same age as my smart, beautiful boy – died violently for no sane reason right before the holidays.

We got the news just before school pickup on Friday. My wife and I decided to take our son for a treat, whatever he wanted.

Parents in the car line knew. The woman ahead of us hugged her daughter so fiercely I feared the girl would be injured.

Not telling our son wasn’t an option. He saw flags at half staff, and he knows what that means. Better to hear it from us than … who knows?

We said as little as we could, but there were questions:

“Did he kill the whole school?”

“Were any of them kids?”

“Did the teachers try to stop him?”

“How many people died?”

And a comment: “I think it’s unfair that he lived a life and took their lives.”

Later Friday, we received a well written email from our son’s principal telling us the school’s disaster preparedness plan is current, reviewed by appropriate agencies, and rehearsed often. The email hit all the right notes, but it didn’t help.

I tear up unpredictably. I almost rear-ended somebody. I’m nauseous but can’t vomit. I want to sleep.

The fact that the gunman carried so much ammunition that it could’ve been much worse carries little comfort, and some reporters, I’m sorry to say, forgot their ethics training (and common sense) to ask little kids, “Were you scared?”

As measured by online comments, the column I wrote for the Daily Chronicle that really rang the bell was when I said permitting college students to legally carry concealed guns isn’t the answer to campus shootings. I “missed the point,” some said.

Here are other points.

• Humorist Andy Borowitz is spot on: “The right to own a gun is trumped by the right not to be shot by one.”

• Arming teachers is so ludicrous it’s a waste of space to debate it.

• I realize it’s fun to shoot and hunting is a way of life for some. I grew up in rural Texas and the CIA was suitably impressed with my firearm experience when I interviewed for a job with them.

• President Barack Obama is the best thing that ever happened to the gun industry. Most who voted for him are bitter he’s done nothing about the gun insanity plaguing this country.

• People who say Israel and Switzerland are models for U.S. gun policy haven’t actually read how gun laws work in those countries.

• We should invest more in mental health.

• We should outlaw military-style assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and most of the ways people can buy guns.

• Triggers should be fingerprint activated (like my laptop).

• Barnes & Noble, gun magazines shouldn’t be at floor level. What are you thinking? They should also have front cover “shields,” like porn, and you should have to be 21 to buy them.

• The NRA has no real intention of changing its fundamental position, despite the feel-good press release.

• Research says there’s no conclusive causal relationship between violent video games and violence. Still …

• Jason Akst teaches journalism and public relations at Northern Illinois University.
Contact him at

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