On Feb. 9, 2004, 16-year-old Jon Romano entered Columbia High School in East Greenbush with a pump-action shotgun, immediately rendering the school in lockdown mode. Luckily, for the safety of all, the retired Columbia principal John Sawchuk tackled Romano to the ground and disarmed him, saving lives. One teacher was shot in the leg during the process and has since recovered. No lives were lost.
Now, 14 years after shooting up his own school, Romano has written a letter expressing support for the survivors of the Parkland shooting, and more specifically, the gun reform they're extolling.
The letter was penned to the Times Union Executive Editor Rex Smith in response to Chris Churchill's February 21st column which featured an interview with Sawchuk, the principal that saved the lives of Romano's classmates.
Romano started the letter by thanking Sawchuk for acting on instinct, before going on to praise the Parkland students' activism, and denote the importance of gun reform.
Feb. 24, 2018
Dear Mr. Rex Smith, Vice President and Editor,
I wanted to respond to the column written by Mr. Chris Churchill on Feb. 21st. First, John Sawchuk is a hero who I owe my life to. I know that every time another horrible shooting happens, he and all of my victims are hurt all over again by what I did to them. I want to take away their pain, but knowing I cannot, I want to prevent others from experiencing this pain. I have taken the steps toward this that I can do from prison, and I intend to advocate for gun safety and mental health reform after my release in 2021.
Also, I believe the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL are courageous and inspiring for speaking out and demanding action from politicians. Everyone nationwide should follow and accept nothing less than meaningful, life-saving policy changes from their representatives. Only then could this generation be the last generation that lives in a nation plagued by gun violence.
Coxsackie Correctional Facility
While musing on the importance of gun reform, Romano inadvertently posed the question: who would have died if he had a more powerful gun in 2004?
One of his classmates saw the letter, and found herself shocked to agree with the former shooter.
Some people were encouraged to see perpetrators speak out against their own crimes, while others remained unconvinced.
Perhaps Romano's frank statement will open the door for other contrite perpetrators to speak out for gun reform. Even if it doesn't, his letter speaks volumes about how out of hand the gun laws in America have become.