A man who conducted a school shooting in 2004 but was stopped before killing anyone wrote a letter from jail expressing support for students advocating harsher gun control measures.
Jon Romano, now 30, brought a pump-action shotgun to his school. John Sawchuk, an assistant principal, tackled and disarmed Romano before the incident escalated to the level seen in recent school shootings. One teacher was hit, but nobody died. Romano is now serving a 20-year sentence.
Last month, the New York-based Times Union published an interview with Sawchuk. The former principal said he believed that Romano would have caused much more damage if he had a semiautomatic weapon, like the AR-15 that was used in the Parkland shooting and other infamous incidents, such as the sprees in Newtown and Las Vegas.
Romano penned his letter after seeing the interview with his former principal, whom he referred to as a “hero.”
“I believe the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland are courageous and inspiring for demanding action from politicians,” Romano wrote. “Everyone nationwide should accept nothing less than meaningful, life-saving policy changes from their politicians.”
In the letter, Romano wrote, “I intend to advocate for gun safety and mental health reform after my release in 2021.”
The written dialogue between Romano and Sawchuk offers a sobering perspective on the gun control debate, which is frequently steered toward hyperbole and polarization, rather than grounded conversation.
The contortions of political extremism do not taint Sawchuk’s opinions. The initial proposals to alter access to military-grade weapons, like AR-15s, has devolved into a debate about common-sense gun legislation to a debate over access to all guns.
Sawchuk’s comments provide an unfiltered, logical statement that assesses the lethality of a particular kind of weapon and avoids the politicized frills currently distorting any substantive political discussion.
Romano's words offer rare insight into the mindset of a repentant school shooter and, perhaps, carry more weight because it is quite unusual that school shooters become gun control advocates. His words express gratitude to the principal who stopped him from causing more damage, but also hint at the dangers of hindering modern school shootings when attackers are using more advanced weaponry and cannot be stopped as quickly.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Reuters, Jonathan Drake