As a high school teacher who has experienced the horror of a school shooting first hand, I take exception to Susan Reimer's column about Nancy Lanza, the mother of the Newtown, Conn., school gunman ("Nancy Lanza, Newtown's forgotten victim," Dec. 23).

While Ms. Lanza was indeed an undeserving victim of her son's rampage, she hasn't been vilified unjustly. Ms. Lanza was not an irresponsible parent because her son suffered from mental illness; she was an irresponsible gun owner because her unstable son was able to gain access to her arsenal of assault weapons with 30-round clips.

I won't soon forget the sound of the shotgun blasts that rang through our cafeteria four months ago, barely 100 feet from my classroom. I thank God every day for the courage of staff members who thwarted the attack on Perry Hall High School.

I also realize how lucky we are that Robert Gladden's step-father kept his weapons under lock and key. Mr. Gladden fired on his fellow students with his father's rifle, which was neither semiautomatic nor capable of accepting multi-round clips.

And he still managed to send one of his classmates to the Shock-Trauma Center. I can't imagine what might have happened if he had gotten his hands on an assault rifle.

John Donne wrote "any man's death diminishes me," and in that sense, Ms. Lanza's murder at the hands of her son was a tragedy.

Still, anyone who takes it upon herself to own weapons that can cause the kind of slaughter the world saw at Sandy Hook had better make sure those weapons stay out of the wrong hands. Ms. Lanza had a son with a history of mental illness. She should have known better.

Susan M. Gerber

The writer teaches in the English Department at Perry Hall High School in Baltimore County.

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