A troubled teenager accused of plotting a school attack built up a stash of weapons with the help of his mother, authorities said Friday. Michele Cossey, 46, was arrested Friday on charges of illegally buying her home-schooled son, Dillon, a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle and a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle with a laser scope. ...[T]he teen, who also had a brief court appearance Friday, was ordered held at a juvenile facility while he undergoes a psychiatric evaluation. He was charged with solicitation to commit terror and other counts, but his lawyer, J. David Farrell, stressed that all but one of the weapons prosecutors put on display were pellet guns and air rifles.
Guns--in the hands of a kid. Scary stuff, right? Especially the 9mm--you could hurt somebody with that.
The teenager said the two .22-caliber weapons were stored at a friend's house. ...[T]he search did not turn up any ammunition for the semiautomatic rifle.
Then we read on:
Authorities have said they do not believe an attack was imminent and are not even certain one would have occurred.
''This was a smart kid that clearly believes he was picked on and was a victim,'' Castor said. ''He had psychological issues and began to act out on those feelings.''
[...]Acting on a tip from a high school student and his father, police searched the boy's bedroom and found the 9 mm rifle, about 30 air-powered guns modeled to look like higher-powered weapons, swords, knives, a bomb-making book, videos of the 1999 Columbine attack in Colorado and violence-filled notebooks, Castor said.
Now, I know almost nothing about guns, .22, 9mm, air-powered or otherwise. We're not a gun-owning family, and I've never been interested enough in weaponry to educate myself in the field (except for a fascinating conversation with Zara in which I discovered that the Desert Eagle would be the perfect weapon for the bad guy in my as-yet-to-be-written-or-even-outlined murder mystery to use to kill someone from a block and a half away). And I don't know a lot about "bomb-making books" except that (a) the book in question, the Anarchist's Cookbook, was owned by at least six of my high school buddies, and (b) the only person you're going to blow up by following the directions in the Anarchist's Cookbook is yourself... and that's if you screw something up somewhere.
But I do know something about the subtext of this story: a boy who was poisoned by fear.
This kid was bullied at school--bullied to the point that his parents pulled him out to homeschool him. Every day that he walked down the hallways of his middle school, his heart would pound and his hands go clammy with sweat. There was no way to know where his tormentors would pop up today, what they would say, what they would do. He might have asked for help from a teacher or a counselor, or he might have felt so bound by the peer-pressure code of silence that he was unable to speak up to defend himself. He might even have spoken up and found that the school administration was so helpless, or so unwilling, to protect him that he never went to them again.
And even when he was removed from that environment, the bullying continued. Maybe anonymous taunts were left on his MySpace page. Maybe he had to walk quickly, head down, past the bullies' houses on his way to the library or the store. Maybe he answered the phone several times a day to hear nothing but rough breathing, and then laughter. Maybe the taste of blood and grit in his mouth never seemed to go away, was always as fresh as a wound reminding him of who he hated and why.
I didn't have access to a gun in high school; not even to a decent knife. But I carried a wrench tucked inside my jacket, figuring anything hard and metal would be better than nothing if it came down to a fight. And I filled up notebook after notebook with outpourings of hate (and some pretty damn bad goth poetry). If the Authorities had gotten their hands on what I had written, in this era of zero-tolerance and punish first, ask questions later, who knows where I would have ended up? Maybe in a "boot camp" like this kid.
Should what Dillon Cossey was doing have been ignored? Obviously not--it was a clear plea for help. But should the response have been to throw him--and his mom, who I honestly can't perceive as having done anything illegal--in jail, where he'll be bullied and terrorized in ways your average middle-school thug could only imagine? Yeah... that'll turn him out just fine.