your kid comes home from school, listen to what he has to say. Don’t blow him off.” Many people pointed out to us how important it is for parents to know their children’s friends and to discourage friendships that might harm them or lead them astray. Others took a broader view, expressing the need for Americans to “get back to basics,” including making religion the cornerstone of family life.
When asked about lessons the community might learn, one public official offered the following list: (1) Recognize that this kind of crime can happen anywhere; (2) If a kid is talking about shooting or killing someone, that must be taken as a serious threat and not put aside as a joke; (3) Parents need to connect with their children and look for signs of anger or resentment; (4) Parents need to be more active in their children’s schools; and (5) Responsible gun ownership means locking up the guns so that children do not have access to them and cannot fire them.
Few Edinboro residents appear to have given much thought to the fact that Andrew had such easy access to his father’s semiautomatic handgun. When we asked about this, many people reminded us that the Edinboro area has many hunters, and that having guns of all types in the home is accepted as a matter of course. Reminders of the gun culture are everywhere. One school official told us that there is no school on the Monday after Thanksgiving because it is the first day of deer season. We asked for directions at a gas station, and the attendant asked if we were looking for a certain gun club that was down the road. Ironically, there is a “guns and ammo” shop, Uncle Sam’s Trading Post, located on Route 99 in between Parker Middle School and Nick’s Place.
There are some residents who have called the Edinboro region’s gun culture into question, especially after the shooting, but most remain largely silent. Gun ownership is just too much a part of the community’s social fabric. But there is another factor: in support of gun ownership, people had only to point at Nick’s Place owner James Strand, who had grabbed his shotgun and forced Andrew Wurst to drop his weapon. How many more teachers and children may have died, they asked, if Strand had not owned a gun?
After the shooting, an Erie television station worked briefly with the district attorney’s office to offer gun trigger locks at a discount, but the program died out relatively soon. Several people expressed the idea that locking up a handgun would make it useless for home defense. One person said that a trigger lock wouldn’t work because children would know where the key was kept. What we heard instead is that it is a family responsibility to teach respect for firearms.
We also heard ideas about what needs to be done in the schools. A source who was involved in the case drew the following lessons: (1) Teachers need to be educated about mental illness and be aware of the