Former gunman Jon Romano opened fire at Columbia High School 14 years ago this month when he was 16-years-old. Fortunately, there were no fatalities in the shooting that took place in the East Greenbush school.
Now, Romano is making a plea for reducing gun violence. He penned a letter from Coxsackie Correctional Facility in response to an article in the Times Union about the former school principal that put an end to his shooting spree.
On February 9, 2004, Columbia High School students found themselves running for cover when shots rang out around 10:30 AM. Unlike the Parkland, Florida, school shooter Nikolas Cruz, Romano did not have am AR-15 assault-style firearm.
Instead, he fired two rounds from a pump-action shotgun and was disarmed by Columbia High's principal John Sawchuk before anyone could get seriously hurt. As he was tackled by Sawchuk, the teen managed to shoot a third round, striking a teacher in the leg.
If Romano had access to the same rifle Cruz brandished that killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the consequences would've been more devastating.
Our exec editor got a letter from an inmate convicted as a teen for being a school shooter/He had a shotgun, was ta… https://t.co/1gKwa7wCpn— Lynda Edwards (@Lynda Edwards) 1520117829.0
Romano was seven months shy of legally obtaining an AR-15 when the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act expired.
"I think a lot of people would have been dead," Sawchuk told Chris Churchill in the Albany paper. "I didn't think it would ever happen in our school," he said, referring to mass shootings plaguing the country. "Even when it was happening, I didn't think it was happening. I thought it was an explosion in the gym."
@ddale8 @JoyAnnReid Never thought I would see this happen. I was a sophomore hiding under my desk in math class tha… https://t.co/JOKibWYvS2— Jessica Bundy (@Jessica Bundy) 1520141237.0
Romano wrote Times Union Executive Editor Rex Smith a hand-written letter, calling the retired principal a "hero who I owe my life to."
I know whenever another horrible shooting happens, he and all of my victims are hurt all over again from what I did to them. I want to take away their pain but knowing that I cannot, I want to prevent others from experiencing this pain.
He also praised the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas for calling on politicians to refuse donations from the National Rifle Association.
I believe the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland are courageous and inspiring for demanding action from politicians. Everyone nationwide should accept nothing less than meaningful, life-saving policy changes from their politicians.
Only then could this generation be the last generation that lives in a nation plagued by gun violence.
Romano will be eligible for parole in March, 2021, and he's already made plans for his time outside of prison.
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.
There were mixed responses to his letter.
@Lynda555E His words mean nothing. That man is just an unsuccessful monster in my eyes.— Rational Human Being (@Rational Human Being) 1520169585.0
@starboard_light No, he said he intends to advocate for mental health reform as well.. but owning a gun does make y… https://t.co/TwHJkIK4dk— Marty Brennan (@Marty Brennan) 1520171994.0
@jtcarpenter226 @loveliberty1789 @Lynda555E You’re right. He should be given the death penalty for the attempt to c… https://t.co/9LApwoqgyp— An American (@An American) 1520173931.0
While others saw hope.
@loveliberty1789 @Lynda555E Although his attempted acts were horrible. To be honest, if the “House of Corrections”… https://t.co/24IHDivcGH— JT (@JT) 1520171542.0
@fiona_mccool @ddale8 @JoyAnnReid Thank you for your Q, Fiona! TBH, before seeing this letter the thought of it mad… https://t.co/aFSLCWrMy3— Jessica Bundy (@Jessica Bundy) 1520181383.0
@jedet02 Okay. Granted. But, who taught him to do violence? Or why did he pursue it? I don't believe that Evil exis… https://t.co/sz7O2bdmDv— Douglas Reynolds (@Douglas Reynolds) 1520186434.0
The system is called into question on how it handles criminals.
@DrSeuss_1 @jtcarpenter226 @loveliberty1789 @Lynda555E And that is exactly the mentality that keeps people from get… https://t.co/VSYWlSrULs— EgoSupreme (@EgoSupreme) 1520172652.0
Are there enough voices to enact change? Time will tell.
@JessicaABundy @ddale8 @JoyAnnReid I'm glad you were able to see his letter. The student advocates have given voice… https://t.co/bILs6tfNKu— Sandra West (@Sandra West) 1520172024.0