Campus game draws wrong kind of attention
Police officers were called to a University of Nebraska-Lincoln classroom Wednesday where a student wearing a ski mask and gun was reported.
it turned out to be a participant in the local version of a nationally popular student game, "Assassin," called "Live Free or Neihardt" by residents of that dorm.
After each player gets another player's name, he or she attempts to "assassinate" the target by shooting them below the head with foam darts, paperclip "bullets" or some other harmless projectile.
Nervous college officials banned the game.
It reminds us of the e-mail going around, comparing 1968 to 2008:
Scenario: Jack goes quail hunting before school, pulls into school parking lot with shotgun in gun rack.
1968 -- Vice principal comes over to look at Jack's shotgun. He goes to his own car and gets his shotgun to show Jack.
2008 -- School goes into lock-down, and FBI is called. Jack is hauled off to jail and never sees his truck or gun again. Counselors called in for traumatized students and teachers.
Scenario: Johnny and Mark get into a fist fight after school.
1968 -- Crowd gathers. Mark wins. Johnny and Mark shake hands and end up best friends.
2008 -- Police called. SWAT team arrives. Johnny and Mark are arrested and charged with assault. Both are expelled even though Johnny started it.
Scenario: Jeffrey won't be still in class, disrupts other students.
1968 -- Jeffrey sent to office and given a good paddling by the principal. He returns to class, sits still and does not disrupt class again.
2008 -- Jeffrey is diagnosed with ADD and given huge doses of Ritalin. Becomes a zombie. School gets extra money from state because Jeffrey has a learning disability.
We don't blame college or other school officials for being cautious when it comes to the safety of their students and staff. Forty years ago, who would have believed troubled teen gunmen would become a not uncommon occurrence?
Each situation needs to be treated like it is the real thing, and most such incidents have involved overlooked warning signs.
And the student involved in the game need to think things through; who could imagine someone in a ski mask carrying any type of weapon wouldn't draw attention? In light of the shootings at the Omaha mall, Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois, a better choice of campus entertainment certainly would have been appropriate.
But somewhere, somehow, we need to find the proper balance between security and our right to enjoy a free and open society.