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Echoes of a shooting

On December 14, 1992, exactly 20 years before the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, a student went on a sudden rampage at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Massachusetts. The gunfire killed a beloved student, Galen Gibson, and professor, Ñacuñán Sáez, and wounded four others.

PBS Need to Know sat down with survivors of the Simon’s Rock shooting, as well as family members of the victims, to learn how a trauma of this magnitude continues to reverberate even two decades later.

Plus, watch this week’s essay: As a 13-year-old boy, a single bullet in the back from an unsuspecting stranger left Jerry McGill a quadriplegic with no chance for recovery. This random act of violence may have dashed the 44-year-old’s childhood dreams of becoming an athlete or entertainer but it never stole his optimistic outlook on life.

Read the updated transcript.

More on the Simon’s Rock tragedy

Gone Boy

Read an excerpt from Gregory Gibson’s Gone Boy: A Father’s Search for the Truth in His Son’s Murder.

Remembering the night

Faculty who were working at the school during the 1992 shooting take us back to that night.

Creating art from tragedy

The 1992 school shooting at Simon’s Rock College inspires poetry and piano.

Watch more full episodes of Need to Know.


  • Teacher

    I believe that the amounts on magazine rounds should be limited and mental health background checks should be mandatory.

  • Patti Richey

    if laws stopped people from doing things, we wouldn’t have a drug problem. Stricter gun laws won’t change a thing. an armed person is a deterrent. Arm the teachers, coaches, administration. protect our kids the only way that mite have a chance.

  • Les

    There should be background checks on people who buy APC’s from Sears, Walmart, JCPenney or any other such retail stores that sells them. APC stands for ‘Assault Pressure Cookers” like the ones used at the Boston Marathon. Those pressure cookers are extremely dangerous things. That is what I think about your broadcast. A complete waste of time.

  • Don Camp

    Why skate over the real problem? The guy said God told him to do it. That’s mental illness. Yes, he had a gun, and it was a high capacity automatic. But any gun would have done the same. Mental illness is the problem in almost every case of mass shooting. But we ignore it. Come on, PBS, help us out here.

  • MdMonahan

    An armed person is NOT a deterrent, just another possible killer.

  • mdmonahan

    Time to challenge the holy grail. Time to repeal the 2nd Amendment. It is a 18th Century anachronism. No longer relevant in the 21st Century. It cripples any creative thinking about addressing the reality a a culture rife with gun violence. We have convinced ourselves that we cannot do anything about that because of the 2nd Amendment. The answer: get rid of the 2nd Amendment. It is not on stone tablets from Mt Sinai after all. It IS possible to repeal articles in the Constitution.

  • peg

    mdmonahan is so right! Americans call the Constitution a living document. Anything living is able to change or be changed.

    Mental health help is another issue that our country refuses to take care of, too. (See Mother Jones, Apr. 2013.) We have avoided taking on these two issues, the “sacredness” of the 2nd amendment and the cover-up of the mental health mess, for far too long.

    Need to Know has done a great job with this program!

  • Oktane Kain

    Odd I don’t see polkce stations getting shot up…

  • Oktane Kain

    The fact that you belive that we no longer need the second amendment is beyond comprehension. We had just come out of a war! It was called the revolution. Not some far away fight, this was fought in our own streets, in front of our own children! We put the right to bear arms as the second amendment because it is the one that guarantees that this remain a republic! We have seen gun control under other countries, russia under stalin, germany under hitler, etc… and yet some would refuse to learn from history… true blessed ignorance.

  • Oktane Kain

    I believe that we need to stop believing that the world is safe. It is our responsibility as individuals, and as citizens to arm ourselves and take back our schools. We trust our childrens lives education and safety to teachers, yet we do not give them the tools to protect them. They get cpr, and counciling and all kinds of training, but not a concealed carry. Its like the first aid kit, we always hope the never have to use it, but if they need it to save a life it is there, so would a concealed carry…

  • Mike Peach

    Where do I start. According to the presentation, people knew something was amiss with the shooter. Massachusetts law was flawed allowing a non-resident to purchase a gun where a resident could not. The father, Greg Gibson, said that people should be allowed to own guns, just not purchase one a month. The shooter had only one gun. To quote a famous politician, what difference does it make. Gibson also said there should “All you get is seven rounds”. Six people got shot. What difference does it make.

    The people around the shooter should have taken some kind of action even if it was only to be on heightened awareness,

  • Timothy Roesch

    When will NEED TO KNOW decide t interview Jeanne Assam ( or the vice principal of Pearl High School, Joel Myrick ( Do people who STOP shootings like this (Pearl High School did not rise to the level of a ‘Mass Shooting’ either because the VP stopped it before it could) deserve a Need to Know?

  • williamdiamon

    Still blaming guns? Want to make a real difference? Try going after gangs and improving our mental health care. Let teachers and students carry if they have a CCW. The Founding Fathers wrote the Bill of Rights, if you don’t understand it at least respect their judgement until you figure it out.
    Before guns there were no murders, crime or madmen we all know that. This is all the guns fault, I guess. Imagine a world without guns, in fact 500 years ago there were no guns. Now let me ask you, would you rather be bludgeoned to death with a club, cut in half with a broadsword, or shot with a rifle? See what I mean?, violence and evil has existed since Cain. Come prepared. But don’t try to disarm the defenceless and tell me it’s for their safety. The criminals want the same thing! England and Australia. Both saw home invasions and violent crime rates soar, But now the home owner or mother or innocent is left to defend with kitchen utensils. But by having this knowledge and lying about the facts show your true intent, not “safety” but confiscation.

  • williamdiamon

    Yes we have amended the Constitution many times since 1791. Are you suggesting we amend the Bill of Rights? Specifically the one that ends “shall not be infringed”? Dream on. You are wasting your breath if you think I will give up the best way to protect myself, loved ones, community and Constitution from tyranny and evil. Never gonna happen. Gun-control is over. All centers of it are hotbeds of crime. From Chicago to Mexico. You are fixating on the weapon and not the madman behind the trigger. We use guns to respond to evil. Every squad car in my town has an AR15 in it. To respond to crime. What do you suggest we replace them with, torches and pitchforks? Want to get “creative” about crime?, Focus on gangs. Madmen?, Improve our mental health care.

  • Jed

    Well said!

  • Jed

    Beyond the fact that the 2nd Amendment recognizes the fundamental and intrinsic right to sell defense, it is clear that its primary purpose was to allow for the defense of the Republic against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Mr. Obama recently assured a college graduating class that there was no reason to fear government tyranny. But on 2 July 2008 he said: “We cannot continue to rely only on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.” Meanwhile, his DHS continues arming to the teeth, recently ordering 7000 military select-fire AR-15s (personal defense weapons to them, while the civilian semi-auto version is an assault weapon for the rest of us), 1.6 billion rounds of ammo, and light duty armored personnel carriers. Nothing to worry about, right?

  • Jed

    “An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed was credible in the twelfth century but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays but cannot be believed to Tuesdays.”
    ~ GK Chesterton [Orthodoxy]

  • bob

    what actions involved in sandy hook was not against the law ? They want more laws, like what ? I am gonna use a word I learned from TV in a sentence. It is horrific how the news media terrorizes citizens.

  • bob

    PBS More cops shot and killed people historically then pit bulls killing people.

    Also the 2nd amendment insures that the people can stand against the government tyranny, so lets see a citizen grabs a musket and goes after a guy with M16 ? thats a pretty level table. Myself I would consider a presure cooker for sure.

  • John Ew

    You can not legislate crazy. The issue of gun violence will never be resolved by news media, or congressional action. Our rights slowly erode every day by legislation that only resolves that days issue. If our courts would (strictly) enforce our laws people would get the point and less crime would be committed.

  • Jed

    “The defensive use of guns is usually either not discussed at all in the media or else is depicted as if it means bullets flying in all directions, like the gunfight at the OK Corral. But most defensive uses of guns do not involve actually pulling the trigger.
    “If someone comes at you with a knife and you point a gun at him, he is very unlikely to keep coming, and far more likely to head in the other direction, perhaps in some haste, if he has a brain in his head. Only if he is an idiot are you likely to have to pull the trigger. And if he is an idiot with a knife coming after you, you had better have a trigger to pull.
    “Surveys of American gun owners have found that 4 to 6 percent reported using a gun in self-defense within the previous five years. That is not a very high percentage but, in a country with 300 million people, that works out to hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns per year.
    “Yet we almost never hear about these hundreds of thousands of defensive uses of guns from the media, which will report the killing of a dozen people endlessly around the clock.
    “The murder of a dozen innocent people is unquestionably a human tragedy. But that is no excuse for reacting blindly by preventing hundreds of thousands of other people from defending themselves against meeting the same fate.” ~ Thomas Sowell

  • Jed

    “The gun-control crusade today is like the Prohibition crusade 100 years ago. It is a shared zealotry that binds the self-righteous know-it-alls in a warm fellowship of those who see themselves as fighting on the side of the angels against the forces of evil. It is a lofty role that they are not about to give up for anything so mundane as facts — or even the lives of other people.” ~ Thomas Sowell

  • Timothy Roesch

    Will Need to Know interview Assistant Principal Jamie Addington?

    “A 12-year-old boy charged with bringing guns into a middle school was found out
    because an assistant principal making rounds heard a cartridge being popped into
    a rifle inside a bathroom stall, a newspaper reported.

    Assistant Principal Jamie Addington, who is a hunter, “knew
    instinctively” that he had heard the sound of a gun being loaded, his wife,
    Sherry, told The Washington Post.”

  • Anonymous

    A piece of “advocacy journalism,” completely lacking in intellectual integrity. Ms. Hinojosa offers no data to support her position but stitches together a patchwork of emotional anecdote in order to cover up the fact. “Supply side” gun control does not work, and she has to know this. She was raised in Hyde Park on the south side of Chicago so, unless she has completely lost touch with the city of her youth, she knows that Chicago has been the nation’s murder capital off and on for the last twenty years, all the while Illinois and Chicago have had some of the nation’s most restrictive gun control. It would be much more useful for her to point out any jurisdiction where the kind of gun control she advocates has produced a noticeable reduction in violent crime. Anyone inclined to take her seriously should do some reading, starting with Kates and Kleck, “The Great American Gun Debate.”

    As a supporter of PBS, I am embarrassed; a better title for this program would be “Need to Ignore.”

  • Anonymous

    What people really NEED TO KNOW is much better summarized in a recent Washington Post blog article:

    “Even the percent of homicides involving a gun has dropped from 1993 (71.2 percent) to 69.6 percent, and school violence has been declining without anti-gun laws. (“Homicides at schools declined from an average of 29 per year in the 1990s to an average of 20 per year in the 2000s.”) Total homicides at school dropped by half during the period of the study.

    For the rest of the story, go to:

  • John Ew

    Very good point ON PBS.

  • Anonymous

    An ignorant remark.

    Had you stopped to think, you might have realized that the perpetrators of the recent atrocities in NewTown, Virginia Tech, and Aurora all chose “gun-free” zones, suggesting that they were perhaps avoiding venues where they might encounter armed defenders. Also, firearms are used more often to protect life and property than to commit crime. The basic research on this is found in Gary Kleck, Point Blank.

  • Josef R. Smith, MD

    A realizable invasion of the sacred right to shoot anybody that disagrees with me..get all news agencies to agree that pictures of the perpetrator of acts gun violence NEVER appear in any news media and advertise this policy now and repeatedly…Yes these people are irrational to say the least, but what they all seek is recognition, What better way to get recognition than to have your picture in every newspaper in the country and on every TV station in the world. Sounds too simple, but it could be done simply and wouldn’t hinder anyone’s rights other than the potential murderer’s right to publicity.

  • Peter F. Roberts

    All the media attention and focus is on the tool used by the ‘monster’. And little discussion is allowed on how that lovely little bundle of joy goes from being the toddler in our arms to the young adult who becomes the rampage killer. Why did the young man in Newtown return to the same Elementry school he attended? His victims truely where innocent. But his elementry school classmate may not have been.
    And where did he learn this behavior? The mass media is in the business of promoting violence it often seems. “If it Bleeds – It LEADS”! Is that not the montra of broadcast and print media. And then a few hours later watch your hero seek justice with a gun in their hand. It ia NOT real.
    Reality is only 5% of all law enforcement personnel will just draugh their weapon in the line of duty ONCE in their entire carreer. That is 1 in 20 will just take it out of the holster once in 75,000 days of employment. So our hero cop actor, to be truthful in representing the life in law enforcement, should only remove is weapon from it’s holster once in a television series which would need to run for over 57,000 years. I think the only actor who could pull that off is Bart Simpson.
    Reality is this. For every time a firearm is used in an improper manor, firearms are being used in proper and safe manors between 1,000 and 2,000 time by law abiding and thoughtful citizens in this country everyday.
    The truth and the problem is not in an object. It is a HEART. We need to stop injuring so many of them.

  • williamdiamon

    The proper responce, when someone is shooting at you, is to shoot back. Don’t want a gun in case of home invasion? Are you suggesting you are safer unarmed in the face of a live shooter? Isn’t that why we call the police in the first place, because they have guns? What’s your plan for self defence? Cry like a baby for mercy?, Beg for your life? Ask they rob someone else? How about an innocent? Don’t care to help? The fact that you are willing to accept help from others, who are willing to do violence on your behalf, the police and CCW permitties, but not defend yourself or others should give you pause to reflect. Concealed Carry permities are arrested for crimes at a lower rate then even police are. They know the consequences of foolish actions. Citizens justifiably shoot almost as many criminals as police do. That means someone stopped a criminal from commiting a murder, rape, arson, kidnap of minor, or great bodily harm. These are the only times anyone can use deadly force. That means someone else got to go home that night. Alive. And the bad guy didn’t get away. Good thing, right? Citizens are the criminal’s targets. They usualy avoid the police. That means most of these intended crimes never get completed, that’s more good news. Why do you seem to be standing on the side of criminals, madmen and tryants who like them, want us disarmed.

  • Jed

    Excellent comment. As Jeff Cooper said, “If violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim.”

  • Armed and SAFE

    I’m reposting this comment, since PBS took it down… their version of free speech, I guess. Oh, well, why would I expect them to be in favor of EITHER of the first two amendments? So, here’s my original comments:

    How is it that people cannot understand that BAD people with guns are the problem, and we will NEVER be able to disarm BAD people. Ask an Englishman if the criminals in their “gun-free” society can obtain guns. Of COURSE they can. And DO.

    New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago – all cities with the strictest of gun laws – ironically also have the highest incidence of gun violence. That is, of course, because bad people who ARE armed, because they disregard the law, know that law-abiding citizens are NOT armed, and thus are easy targets.

    Guns save lives every day, when used against bad people, but the liberal-dominated leftist media will NEVER report THAT. But, ask the Baton Rouge, LA police officer who was saved by armed, law-abiding citizen Perry Stevens, for one.

    And there are thousands of such incidents every year in America.

    There is direct correlation linking the increased number of law-abiding, armed, correctly permitted citizens lawfully carrying firearms and dramatic decreases in crime – but ONLY in locations where the carrying of firearms by properly licensed, trained, law-abiding citizens occurs.

    In the meantime, violent crime continues to soar in cities New York City, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Chicago – cities that all prohibit the exercise of the 2nd amendment RIGHT for citizens to carry firearms to protect themselves and their homes, and their families.

    By the way – how about actually enforcing some of the laws that are already on the books? Like the one about a felon using a gun in a crime? I see soft sentences handed down by liberal judges all the time, in cases where a gun was used, but they only sentence the (often habitual criminal) to a year for petty larceny, when they should be sentencing them to armed robbery, possession of a firearm by a felon, possession of ammunition by a felon, and so on.

    If there was a reasonable disincentive to committing crime, fewer people might. Get the violent offenders off the streets! But, don’t try to legislate away the rights of law-abiding, patriotic Americans exercising their 2nd amendment rights lawfully.

  • Jed

    Perhaps this courageous young woman said it best:

    “How does rendering me defenseless protect you against a violent crime?”

    ~ Amanda Collins, a rape victim testifying before the Colorado Legislature with regard to a concealed-carry ban on college campuses.

  • Roger Dethridge

    I have tried to talk to the White House but they do not listern. I am from Australia, and sometime ago Mr John Howard the former PM put in these measures. 1 manditory gun lockers, 2 No semi automatics and 3. All gun owners are liecenced with background checks. Since then Australia has has no mass shooters.

  • G J Dixon

    As long as voters in the United States persist in returning to the Senate and Congress lawmakers who are prepared to sell their souls on the altar of the dollar (accepting money from the National Rifle Association which is financed by a very sick arms industry), there will continue to be massacres of the innocent. It is simply not in the interests of the arms industry or the NRA to have laws which restrict in any way the obscene numbers of handheld weapons of mass destruction sold in the US. And they have the money to bend spineless and greedy lawmakers. Vote in principled lawmakers and change will come. Continue to support the present crop of morally bankrupt leeches and nothing will change, certainly not the crack and crackle of automatic gunfire.

  • Jed

    Massacres of the innocent predate the invention of the firearm by millennia. Why do you focus on the instrument rather than the cause? FBI statistics indicate the more people are killed in this country by clubs, hammers and fists than are killed by rifles. In point of fact, all of the statistical evidence supports pro-2nd Amendment arguments.

    With regard to your political argument, are you not aware that this is a Constitutional Republic and not a direct democracy? Our Founders well understood that direct democracies invariably lead to anarchy and thus to totalitarian regimes, and therefore gave us a Republic.

    Your mention of “morally bankrupt leeches” is pertinent, but misdirected. As Walter E. Williams recently observed, “For well over a half-century, the nation’s liberals and progressives – along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts – have waged war
    on traditions, customs and moral values. These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people. [...] Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms – transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings – represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society.”

    Concerning the NRA, it is not some untethered monster seeking death and destruction, as the Left chooses to delude themselves. The NRA is made up of some five million widely diverse individuals who share a common interest. We vote on our leadership each year. The NRA has done more to promote gun safety and proper, responsible firearm use than any organization in the history of the world.

    Finally, please visit a local NRA sanctioned gun club or range in your area. You will meet a diverse group of intelligent, responsible, law-abiding people, male and female, of varying ages, ethnicity and political points of view. Would it not be wise to research your area of concern before you pass judgement on it?

  • Jed

    The Constitution is not “a living document.” It was specifically written to disallow majority tyranny over a minority. We do not live in a direct democracy, but in a Constitutional Republic. The tragic truth of the matter is that not only do many Americans fail to understand this, but don’t even know the difference. The Constitution does allow for amendments. If you believe that the Second Amendment should be abolished, initiate an effort to do so.

  • Armed and SAFE


    I am curious to know… do you know what the sound of automatic gunfire sounds like?

    The only way you could, is if you’ve been in military combat, or you’ve lived in Chicago, or Los Angeles, or another city where the criminals, armed with automatic weapons, wreak havoc.

    Citizens are not allowed to own automatic weapons, unless they are licensed by the federal government to do so, and they are not authorized to sell them.

    So, for you, and the rest of the liberals that keep trying to blur the lines between ordinary firearms that are used for self-protection by LAW-ABIDING, BACKGROUND-INVESTIGATED, TRAINED, NEVER, EVER, EVER BEEN CONVICTED CITZENS EXERCISING THEIR 2ND AMENDMENT RIGHT – NOT PRIVELEGE, BUT RIGHT:



    Got it?
    Didn’t think so, but at least I tried…

  • Ziggy

    Yep, and since then, Australia has been losing freedoms and civil rights.

  • Jed

    While the cry of “automatic gunfire” is often used in ignorance, I have no doubt that it is frequently used as an intentional distortion of the truth, especially by devious politicians. As you obviously know, the sound once heard is not easily mistaken nor forgotten. It’s been my experience that the vast majority of people who support “gun control” are completely ignorant of firearms as well as the pertinent facts regarding their use.

  • Dick Silvano

    Those in the “sick arms industry” are the very reason you’re not speaking German today. Like it or not, they make a necessary product, a product which, by the way, individual ownership of is specifically protected by it’s own amendment to the Constitution. No other physical item is so protected.

  • Dick Silvano

    Excellent! Thank you.

  • Dick Silvano

    I for one have never and will never delegate my right to self-defense to law enforcement, either local, state or federal. If necessary, I will give them a call after I’ve taken care of the problem so they won’t miss an opportunity to take a report.

  • williamdiamon

    See for yourself.

    “Homicide has decreased by nine percent since 1990 and armed robbery by one-third since 2001, but recorded assaults and sexual assaults have both increased steadily in the past 10 years by over 40 percent and 20 percent respectively.”
    Sound like it stayed the same? They have reverted to a “might makes right” society. Notice rape has increased 20 percent? Violent assaults 40 percent? It is THE reason to carry. Protection of yourself and loved ones, the innocent and community.

  • Jed

    Right you are, but not even a gun was required. A lunatic with a sword can be as much of a mass murderer as a lunatic with a gun.

  • Jim Myers

    Everyone seems to be missing the point here. There has never been a time when so many people are walking around in the US carrying guns or with guns in their vehicles. The gun and ammo manufacturers are working 24/7/365 to keep up with the demand and still, gun shops cannot keep certain weapons and ammo in stock. Some are rationing. This seems to me to be creating an artificial climate of fear in some cases and a tendency towards vigilantism in others. There is no threat of 2nd ammendment rights being taken away at all. The opposite is happening. More states than ever are now either open-carry, concealed-carry or both and requirements for training/permits are being dropped. The NRA is suing state and local governments all over successfully. In my state of NC the law against carrying on school property is being challenged and will likely be dropped. Whether this is good or bad remains to be seen but this is the truth, the reality. Not the paranoid conspiracy bull pedaled by the NRA and others. A larger percentage of the populace owns guns now than ever before. More available junk food in the path of children results in fatter children. More guns, more shootings and yes, shootings are higher than ever. Most are accidents and suicides. I’m not for making either guns or junk food illegal but for common sense. You have a right to eat poorly and be unhealthy but doing so is stupid. You have a right to walk around armed but when you shoot yourself or your child, ask yourself if you really needed that gun. If your child takes your gun to school and shoot the next door little girl, tell her parents how important it was for you to be “safe”.