Moral Low Ground


Jason Pierce: Thoughts on Newtown, From Another Connecticut School Shooting Survivor

J PierceTwenty-five miles from Newtown, Connecticut lies the town of Portland, where I grew up. December 11, 1985 was a date that had been lost in my mind until last week. That was the day a student named Floyd Warmsley entered my school, Portland Junior High School, and held students and teachers hostage for more than three hours before ultimately killing a janitor and shooting two others. I was 12 years old.

I remember hearing the pops of gunfire and a few shrieks. Seconds later, the assistant principal came over the loudspeaker telling the teachers to lock doors and huddle in corners. We didn’t know what was going on until Warmsley approached our classroom and tried to force entry by hitting the end of his gun against the door to either break the lock or the glass. Fortunately he was unsuccessful but seconds later he fired down the hallway several times killing David Bengston, a custodian. Hours later we were led out of the classroom by SWAT officers and I remember seeing four or five German shepherds tied to  lockers in the hallway.

People have limits and it is impossible to know where one’s breaking point is. Earlier that day Warmsley, a 13-year-old eighth grader, came to school with no signs of rage or malicious intent. When he was told to take off his hat or face punishment, he walked home and got his dad’s Tec-9 semi-automatic handgun and returned with the weapon, wearing a trenchcoat. Eventually he was talked into throwing the gun out of a window.  He was tried as a minor and received  four years in a juvenile correction facility and was released after three years for good behavior.

I am now 40 years old and think I lead a normal life. Newtown was just the most horrific act imaginable. Hopefully those families and the affected communities can pull together and find the support and answers they need to carry on in life.  It is impossible to “wipe the slate clean” of memories and sorrow, but hopefully community support and love will ease the pain. Investigators will uncover the triggers that led to this incident. Having experienced a school shooting myself as a child, I just have to ask: why are people allowed to own military-style assault weapons with clips that hold so many bullets?

Jason Pierce is a survivor of the 1985 Portland Junior High School shooting. He currently lives in East Hampton, Connecticut, where he owns a successful home painting and restoration business. 


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  1. RandallDecember 21, 2012 at 7:41 pmReply

    “[W]hy are people allowed to own military-style assault weapons with clips that hold so many bullets?”

    Because semi-auto rifles and handguns are great for home defense and personal protection, and everyone has the right to possess the most effective means of self-defense they can get. When revolvers, bolt-action, and pump-action firearms were state of the art, that is what the military used – they were the “assault weapons” of their day. There’s no good reason peaceful people should be hindered in their ability to protect or liberate themselves. Home invaders, muggers, and rapists often work in teams. We don’t need to make people more vulnerable to them by taking away access the best tools for protection.

    Also, it’s trivial to take two low-capacity magazines and combine them into a single high capacity magazine using epoxy or spot welding. Considering how many of these rampage killers plan and prepare their attacks well in advance, banning large capacity magazines won’t prevent their use. It’s trickier to make moonshine. So please, let’s not ignore the realities of prohibition.

  2. JayaceDecember 22, 2012 at 8:00 amReply


    Your statements are well taken and make good points. You are right in all aspects and on all levels of the rights we deserve as Americans. If a burglar decides to enter a home and the two prospects are 1.a passive family who is unarmed, or 2. A household of known hunters or ex military, surely she/he will think twice about the latter. When a person snaps and decides to massacre knowing at some point he will be faced with dozens of police,swat, and authorities, when he looks into his gun cabinet and sees a few handguns and an m16, is it possible he may reconsider knowing he will not have the firepower for success if he only has handguns? Nobody knows the answers. When is the last time a home was stormed by 12 burglars and the homeowner needed to mow down a dozen people for his own safety? Maybe a large drug deal that went bad. The same heightened sense of safety an m16 gives a homeowner is a similar sense a gunman will have by having assault rifles. If technology was there to make weapons only operable for the one owner through fingerprint recognition, the problem would be close to being solved. Many times it is the wrong people getting their hands on other responsible people’s weapons. Let’s hope that the world wide recognition Of newtown will help in some way and not instigate. In 1985 the incident was out of the local media within days and never made the ap wire. I hope the people that own weapons of any kind ,or have access to, never have to point them at a person.

  3. SteveCaseDecember 22, 2012 at 10:23 amReply

    Randall……GFY, seriously. Google it.

    • Brett WilkinsDecember 22, 2012 at 11:13 amReply

      Is that a “good for you” or a “go fuck yourself?”

  4. RandallDecember 22, 2012 at 1:48 pmReply

    “When is the last time a home was stormed by 12 burglars and the homeowner needed to mow down a dozen people for his own safety?”

    Planning one bullet per assailant is being extremely optimistic, even if the defender is a highly skilled marksman and completely calm in such a dangerous situation. Also, attackers are going to be motivated or persuaded by what they perceive as the defender’s ability to fight back. They’ll be less deterred by someone wielding a 2-round Derringer than they would be by someone with a 20-round AR.
    But really what you’re saying is “I know exactly what kind of threat a person will face in any situation, and I know exactly what kind of firepower it will take them to repel that threat.”

    • Brett WilkinsDecember 22, 2012 at 5:33 pmReply

      Why does “firepower” seem to be your solution to everything?

  5. RandallDecember 22, 2012 at 7:30 pmReply

    It’s not a solution for everything.

    I read a story once about what I would call an ideal resolution to a violent encounter. A young man tried to rob another man. The victim talked him out of it. Got him to sit down for a meal, listened to him, and did what he could to help change that young man’s life around. If only there were some guarantee these things could always work out that way. If only every violent mugger and rapist were so open to reason – so willing to stop and change their behavior.

    But that’s not usually how it goes.

    • Brett WilkinsDecember 22, 2012 at 9:42 pmReply


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