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Would-Be School Shooter Addresses ‘Mental Health Issue’ in Powerful Post

“I almost shot my classmates when I was fourteen years old,” starts Daniel Riley’s Facebook post, which, since being shared on Friday afternoon, has gained significant traction, with 1.6 reactions, 1.7 shares, and hundreds of comments.

“I was not mentally ill. I had no juvenile criminal record. I’d never been suspended from school. I was a straight-A student,” continues Riley. Instead, he says, he was suffering from a tragic yet all-too-common school-age phenomenon: bullying.

By all accounts, Riley says he was a model student. He was even taking advanced classes at the high school as a junior high student, commuting between the two buildings. But there was one student — Kyle — who relentlessly bullied him during what was already a difficult year.

Not only was Riley attending school with students who were much older, something that can be trying for any kid, but he was also dealing with his parents’ impending divorce. And his bully’s constant torment only added more fuel to Riley’s already quickly blistering ninth grade experience.

Kyle turned it into a living fucking Hell. He incessantly teased me, slapped the back of my head, shoved me out of my seat, and made me into a spectacle for everyone’s amusement and derision.

One day, I’d finally had enough. I can’t remember what Kyle did or said, but I couldn’t take it any more. I grabbed him by his throat and lifted him out of his seat and shook him like a rag doll while seething through clenched teeth: “STOP. FUCKING. WITH. ME.” Then I tossed him back into his seat.

I thought that had ended it. I thought he’d stop bullying me after that.

I was wrong.

One day, according to Riley, the torture reached a boiling point when Kyle and his friends followed Riley to the junior high and boarded his bus, telling him they were going to get off at Riley’s stop and beat him up. Instead of planning a way to escape once he reached his destination, Riley had another idea: he would take the beating without tears. But when his harassers did nothing more than follow him and yell threats as he walked home, Riley had a different idea.

I got to my house, put my key in the door as they stood behind me laughing, and I walked right in. When they realized there were no adults in the house, they started circling the building, banging on the doors and walls, and yelling at me to come out and fight them.

So I went upstairs, and I got a shotgun. I checked to make sure it was loaded. Then I released the safety and chambered a shell.

Riley was going to shoot his classmates through his front door. He was going to make them feel the pain and terror they had inflicted upon him for so many months. He was going to force them to feel powerless and take back the agency they had stripped from him.

Luckily for Kyle and his friends, not to mention Riley, a car drove by, scaring the bullies into fleeing just a split second before Riley pulled the trigger.

This story is not a source of pride for Riley, he says. It’s a wake-up call to Americans about just how dangerous and accessible weapons are as a result of gun culture. By mere chance, he and his former classmates escaped with their lives, with Kyle and his friends, today in their late 30s and 40s and undoubtedly with jobs and families of their own, none the wiser that they almost didn’t make it out of that day alive.

The minute any tragedy such as a school shooting strikes this country, those opposed to gun reform hop in the debate with the same old excuses. “It’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem” is one of their favorites.

But Riley makes it crystal clear in his post that mental health issues played zero part in what he almost did as a teenager. Feeling exasperated with the tribulations of life as a kid is not a mental health problem. It’s normal. And when that exasperation is met with easy access to firearms, disaster follows.

I’m explaining what I did, so you will understand that the gun problem in America is not a mental health problem. I was not mentally ill. The problem is access to firearms.

If I’d had access to an AR-15 instead of a shotgun, I would have been quicker to pull the trigger. To my teenage mind, an AR-15 would have felt like the pinnacle of power. I would have felt like a bad-ass; like the characters I envied on TV and in video games. I would have felt like an Old Testament deity.

And I would have used that power to kill my classmates.

Do we have a mental health problem in this country? Absolutely. Do we have a bullying problem in this country? You bet. But while those two things can contribute to the cocktail of circumstances that may result in tragedy, easy access to guns is the one factor that ultimately leads to needless and horrific deaths.

We need to take action to ensure people receive adequate healthcare in this country, including for mental illness. We need to be vigilant about seeing the warning signs of bullying and intervening on behalf of both parties. We need to be stricter about keeping our weapons locked up and away from our children. All of this is imperative. But we also damn sure need to make purchasing firearms, especially high-powered ones capable of harming dozens of people in minutes, impossible for the underaged and those who should not own them.

It’s not about taking away everyone’s guns. It’s about tightening up on measures that keep them out of the hands of those who should not have them.

Kudos to Daniel Riley for sharing his story and exposing his vulnerability to the masses. It’s a difficult yet critical message we need to hear in order to understand just how urgent taking action is to reduce potential incidents such as the one Riley describes.

And that action? That action will save so many more young lives.

To read Riley’s full post, see below, and to learn how you can help prevent gun violence in your community, visit Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.