I Almost Shot My Classmates

A story from Daniel Riley that has gone viral on FB:

“I almost shot my classmates when I was fourteen years old.

I was not mentally ill. I had no juvenile criminal record. I’d never been suspended from school. I was a straight-A student.

I almost shot my classmates, because I experienced a moment of powerlessness and rage—like many teenagers do—and I had access to firearms.

The problem started when I was in ninth-grade. I took advanced foreign language classes, which meant I attended high school for first period and then took a separate bus from high school to my junior high. I was the youngest kid on the high school bus, and I had no friends in high school. That made me an easy target for a bully named Kyle.

Ninth grade was already a bad year for me, because my parents were getting divorced. Kyle turned it into a living fucking Hell. He incessantly teased me, slapped the back of my head, shoved me out of my seat, and made me into a spectacle for everyone’s amusement and derision.

One day, I’d finally had enough. I can’t remember what Kyle did or said, but I couldn’t take it any more. I grabbed him by his throat and lifted him out of his seat and shook him like a rag doll while seething through clenched teeth: “STOP. FUCKING. WITH. ME.” Then I tossed him back into his seat.

I thought that had ended it. I thought he’d stop bullying me after that.

I was wrong.

After school, a bunch of older kids who I didn’t recognize started boarding my bus. Just before the bus pulled away from my junior high, Kyle waltzed up the steps, grinning. He pointed directly at me and said, “That’s him.”

It turns out Kyle and his friends had driven from the high school to the junior high, so they could ride my bus home with me and beat my ass. The entire trip, they laughed and bragged about how they were going to kick the shit out of me when we got to my bus-stop.

I had a long time to think about what I was going to do, and I decided that even though I was going to get a beatdown, I wasn’t going to run, and I wasn’t going to cry. I was just going to calmly get off the bus and start walking home. I figured they’d jump me as soon as the bus had pulled around the corner and was out of sight.

My hands are shaking as I write this. It’s been over twenty years, and I still feel a sense of helplessness and rage when I think about that day.

The bus pulled up to my stop, and I got off. The swarm of high school kids piled off the bus behind me. As the bus pulled away, one of them shoved me from behind. I kept walking. They circled me, yelling and making threats.

But something strange happened. None of them took a swing at me.

I got to my house, put my key in the door as they stood behind me laughing, and I walked right in. When they realized there were no adults in the house, they started circling the building, banging on the doors and walls, and yelling at me to come out and fight them.

So I went upstairs, and I got a shotgun. I checked to make sure it was loaded. Then I released the safety and chambered a shell.

I walked back downstairs and held the barrel against the front door as some of these kids stood on the porch, pounding and yelling at me to let them in. I began to squeeze the trigger, anticipating the blast would penetrate the door and knock these kids to the ground. Then I’d fling the door open and start shooting everyone as they ran away in terror.

I wanted them to feel the same fear they’d inflicted on me. I wanted to hurt them like they’d hurt me. But most of all, I wanted them to feel powerless like I’d felt. I wanted to feel control over just one thing in my life.

As I started to squeeze the trigger, someone yelled that a car was coming, and the kids bolted from the porch and scattered. I was one second away—maybe even less than a second—from shooting my classmates.

Meanwhile, they’ve gone about their lives. They’re in their late 30s and early 40s now. They probably have kids of their own, and they have no idea they almost died that day. They have no idea that behind that door, a scared and angry fourteen-year-old pointed a gun at them and was only a moment away from pulling the trigger.

I’m not proud of any of this. I am not typing any of this to glorify my behavior. I’m explaining what I did, so you will understand that the gun problem in America is not a mental health problem. I was not mentally ill. The problem is access to firearms.

If I’d had access to an AR-15 instead of a shotgun, I would have been quicker to pull the trigger. To my teenage mind, an AR-15 would have felt like the pinnacle of power. I would have felt like a bad-ass; like the characters I envied on TV and in video games. I would have felt like an Old Testament deity.

And I would have used that power to kill my classmates.

I have absolutely no doubt about this.”

18 Comments

  1. sunshinysa

    Hi.
    I reblogged this.
    I also believe that we must scream this out to the world.
    The children are screaming their own kind of pain, this from a mother, whose son was bullied in school.
    …and guns being readily available and accessible?!!!
    This is when I can get fluent in French!

    Liked by 1 person

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