Friday, October 27, 2006

The Poconos' Sick Obsession With Guns

Stroudsburg is a bustling community in the Poconos, an area of Northeastern Pennsylvania long known for its scenic splendor, hunting and skiing and more recently as a bedroom community for commuters who work in North Jersey and New York City.

What happened in Stroudsburg this week is a good example of why the Poconos and Pennsylvania in particular and American society in general are so screwed up.
It is illegal in the Poconos and in Pennsylvania to smoke on school property.

It is illegal in the Poconos and Pennsylvania to have drugs on or near school property.

But it is legal in the Poconos and in Pennsylvania to have guns on or near school property.
This laissez faire attitude about guns contributed to a lockdown of Stroudsburg High School because of fears that a Columbine or Nickel Mines-type shooting incident might be in the offing. This was because two students seen with .22-caliber rifles left a message with some ambiguous but possibly threatening language on an Internet instant message board and then disappeared.

* * * * *
The drama began on Monday morning when Alex Camaerei and Matt Bond, both 16 and both sophomores, played hooky. The reason: They were bored with school, tired of people, had some issues at home and apparently needed to deal with their adolescent angst.
So they did what any self-centered teenager would do.

Instead of merely telling their parents that they needed to chill, they wrekked havoc by disappearing after leaving a message that included the phrases "I'm going to miss you," "We're going to rough it. We want to hunt how we want to hunt," and
"[The] big event they were going to be remembered for."
Hunt for what? Deer? Wild turkey? Students?

As it turns out, neither deer or wild turkey are in season, but this being America, students always are.
When Camaerei and Bond did not return home on Monday night, did not appear at school again on Tuesday and word that they were armed and had left the creepy message reached Stroudsburg High officials, they quickly and appropriately ordered a "high alert" and put the school into lockdown.

Doors and windows were locked and students could not leave their classrooms. Those who had to have a tinkle were escorted to bathrooms in group. Other schools in the region also were put on alert, and panicked parents streamed to Stroudsburg High where they were confronted by the sight of armed officers, some carrying assault rifles.

A search was launched for Camaerei and Bond, and the errant lads were found at a campsite not far out of town on Tuesday evening. They told police they had been planning to run away for some time.

* * * * *
Is there a happy ending to this story? After all, nobody got hurt or killed.
No, because it is unlikely that anyone will have to pay for the incident in an appropriate manner or that, heaven forbid, it should become one of those so-called "teaching moments" of which educators seem to be so fond.
It turns out that the father of Alex Camaerei is the wrestling coach at a nearby high school, while his mother is a clinical psychologist who coordinates mental health screenings for the area's four school districts, which are bursting at the seams because of the population influx and awash with post-pubescent head cases because of . . . well, adolescent angst in all its shapes, sizes, genders, sexual preferences and skin colors.
Based on media accounts, Al Camaerei is as out to lunch as his son.

"They wanted to get away and live off the land for a couple of days," explained Al, speaking for clueless parents everywhere in failing to take responsibility, let alone apologize, and saying that the whole thing had been blown out of proportion.

Blown out of proportion!
The Pocono Record did its part in blowing off the reprehensible aspects of the incident, as well.

In an astoundingly lame editorial on the lockdown, the Record pondered what would cause two nice boys from good homes to go AWOL.
It concluded that the incident "served as a drill, a chance for school officials and police to test their emergency plans, and which, in the cool light of day, they may evaluate and refine."

Thank goodness for the cool light of day, and the days are indeed cool in the Poconos these days. But there was nothing in the editorial about taking responsibility. Nothing about the consequences of doing stupid and potentially harmful things. Nothing about teaching moments. Nada.
I myself would order the expulsion of both boys for the rest of the school year and tell Al to put a sock in it the next time he feels the urge to say something incredibly stupid in public, let alone the impressionable young dears that he teaches and coaches.
But, you see, guns rule in the Poconos. They are objects of worship.

A lot of people have guns. A lot of people carry guns. Usually not out in the open, but in the glove compartments and trunks of their cars, the tool boxes of their pick-up trucks and God knows where else. You can bet that on a given day there are guns in cars in the parking lot at Stroudsburg High or Stroud Mall.

And a lot of people use guns, sometimes on each other as the area's disturbing violent crime rate shows.

Anyone want to take bets about how long it will be before the Pocono's sick obsession with guns results in a major tragedy?
It's as easy to buy a gun in the Poconos as it is to buy seed for a bird feeder. So easy, in fact, that guns purchased in Stroudsburg by straw men are turning up in New York City, which has some of the toughest gun laws anywhere. (I blogged about that here.)
It's just a damned good thing that neither Alex Camaerei or Matt Bond were smoking cigarettes on school property, let alone sharing a joint.

Then there really would be hell to pay.


Anonymous said...

Yes. It seems it is okay to tote an instrument of instant death in our country, but those things that can cause a slow, often painful deferred death are just fine. Weird folk, the people of the USA.

Shaun Mullen said...

Hi Isaac. Good to hear from you.

It is quite all right to pack heat in the USA. And as of this writing (1 pm EDT Friday) not one of the many people in the Poconos who have downloaded this story have screwed up the courage to comment on it. Maybe they're afraid of getting shot.

Anonymous said...

What actions did those boys take that would warrant expulsion from school?? The police were the ones that initiated the “lock-down”. Shaun, I don’t disagree that it’s an upsetting incident, but the times we live in sometimes call for discretion. In this case the police and the school kept my kids safe. I can’t ask for more than that. I do agree with you that it was a cavalier attitude exhibited by the father. If the parents were presented with a bill for the extra resources used during the lock-down, I’ll bet the father might have a different tune to sing. I’m glad to see there’s a blog covering things here in the Poconos. Keep it up.

Shaun Mullen said...

As of 4pm EDT Friday, I have received several private emails from people (including one from a politician) who agree that the gun situation is way out of control in their community.

None apparently felt comfortable commenting -- even anonymously -- perhaps because of the enormous power of pro-gun and hunting groups who are the reason Pennsylvania has such laughably lax gun laws, as well as a prohibition on local jurisdictions being able to enact their own gun laws tailored to local needs.

As for the thoughtful comments from the anonymous individual above this comment, I regret to say that you miss my biggest point -- being aware of one's actions before they are taken and being responsible for them no matter what the consequences are.

I am grateful that your children were not harmed, but that had nothing to do with the two 16-year-olds who forced the lockdown. They neither considered the potential impact of their actions on school and community nor took responsibility for them.

Expulsion, as well as the parents compensating the police and emergency workers, is an appropriate punishment.

Anonymous said...


Ok I tell you that I did not comment because I know someone involved (just casually)and actually live in the Poconos but the outer edge, near Milford. I owned a house in Stroudsburg for many years, but actually a shooting prompted me to sell because it happened not far from where I lived. Yes, that could happen anywhere. I know. It seemed to be happening more and more though.

In the time I lived there, the town of Stroudsburg seemed to be declining. Shortages of school supplies, strains, as people all moved into the town with easy access to 80 (an easy commute to NYC) I loved the area-beautiful, natural. But things were starting to change. Perhaps 9-11 or just sprawl economics made people come in droves to Stroudsburg. We had a contract the first day our house was on the market.

Anyway, what I do take exception to though Shaun is that Al and his wife are "clueless". Perhaps in public they did not get into things to everyone's satisfaction- but I do not know them to be "clueless" people. There is almost an implication in the coverage that mrs. C should "know better". Well, we know that parenting is a complicated job. The media cannot fairly judge them, only the legal response. Community response where it pertains to culpability.
I think we do need to send a stronger message to youth about what we will tolerate as a society, and I do think that people are categorically careless with their weapons.Thats a rural thing. Stroudsburg has rural laws, but an urban population these days.

I dont think the laws in the Poconos are more lax than the rest of PA. They are looser than New York state. Unfortunately, people have always and will continue to be careless with their guns, their use of alcohol, their use of automobiles in ways that endanger others, etc.

I think I hear you on the mentality that seems to ignore public good. An example is that there was no ban on trash burning when we lived there, we had pieces of plastic actually stick to the sides of our home and were sickened by fumes constantly right outside our window. Complain? Ha. "Its my RIGHT to burn shit all day!".
Apparently dumping motor oil into creeks was not much of a crime either. And then there was the important woman who crashed into my parked car that the police said was "not something to report" yeah. Small town. I get it. No Breathalizer. No fault!
Had I only owned the camera phone then!!!
I DO hear you.
This was a feature of Stroudsburg that I hated and I think you are right in touching on. I am not a fan of heavy regulation of personal lives, but I think we let our fear of PERCEIVED "liberal commie" policy distort our view on where regulation is needed most, such as to protect the right to health and safety.

I wonder why we let gun ownership rights advocates tout the constitution, but we dont hear alot of environmentalists and parent advocates talking about the right to "live" unimpeded? To be free of toxins? To be free of violence? Etc.
I somewhat support personal gun use but think the paranoia about database misuse has led to lax tracking standards and they invariably end up on the streets.

Shaun Mullen said...

Hi Lily:

On reflection, I may have been a little too tough on Al and his wife. I know that I was not a perfect father when my kids were of school age.

Guns are another matter. I also believe that people should be allowed to have guns. Living on a farm for many years will do that to you. But Pennsylvania's gun laws are laughably lax and there are just too damned many guns too damned many places where people can -- and do -- get hurt.

Gun ownership is not a right. It's a privilege.

Anonymous said...


My name is Alex Camaerei, yes the real Alex Camaerei. The one who was wrongly accused of "shooting up the school" two years ago. I was just extremely bored and decided to search my name in the Yahoo Search engine and came across your little blog.
I thought it was pretty amusing how you seem to think that you have all of the facts in the situation. I'll tell you a brief summary of what really happened, okay? You see I was only 16 years old. My parents are good parents. Very good. They gave me everything I ever wanted. The only problem was, well, me. I was a bad kid. A bad student, a bad influence, a bad person. I would steal, I would fight, and I would skip school. As a matter of fact, for the two weeks before we ran away, I skipped school everyday. And I would come home everyday around the time I would get off the bus and nobody would know any different. It was my idea to run away, and mine alone. I wanted Matt to come with me because we did everything together. We had the whole thing planned out very well. We assembled all of our camping gear and brought guns because, well how were we going to eat? The funny thing was, the place we camped at was about 12 miles from Stroudsburg High School. We spent our whole first day cutting down tree branches and making a hut that we could sleep in. Basically we put a tent up that Matt brought, and then took large limbs and covered the tent. Then we took pine tree twigs and leaves and tied them to the branches. Keep in mind that we had NO idea of what was going to transpire that day and the next. All we were doing was hunting and camping. After my parents realized I was not coming home that day, they started to freak out(excuse them!). They called the school to see if I was there. Thats when they found out I wasn't there for the last two weeks. Then the school called Matts mom. She said that she noticed that Matts hunting rifle was missing. She mentioned it to the school. A few minutes later my mom tried to contact the school and when she finally got ahold of the Guidence Counsler, he asked her if I had a gun. Meanwhile, at our camp site, my cell phone was off. I had no Idea any of this was happening. The school then went on lock down and all of the chaos insued. After we found out about everything, we came out of the woods and met our fate. A life filled with looks, whispers, and regret. I screwed my parents over, they were NEVER bad to me. I resent the fact that you went and wrote a blog about me not knowing anything but what you read. I would like you to know that I broke no laws at all. I was of age to carry a gun, I did nothing to the school. The only thing I did with my gun was kill a squirrl. This incident came to be because of word-of-mouth. Everybody's he-said-she-said games turned me into a criminal and ruined my relationships with many people. I would just like you to know that after all this transpired, I left stroudsburg High. They wanted to prove that this was all my fault. They went on my myspace and said i was demonic and in a cult. I never knew that myspace was a way to draw conclusions on people. Hell, if they looked up half the minors in that school they could see pictures of them smoking weed and drinking. I went to a different school, brought my GPA up to a 3.4 and during the Fall 2009 semester I will attend the Pennsylvania State University. I read the last few lines in this blog when you said that nothing was learned from this incident, and it inspired me to write this. As a matter of fact it was everybody like you that inspired me to change. All the people who said I was a freak, who said I would always be a loser, you inspired me, So I thank you.

Alex Vyto Camaerei

Anonymous said...

Alright first of all, you guys wanna talk about two kids who were 15 miles away from the School with guns, yet a house gets held up just blocks away and cops do NOTHING to protect the kids who were STILL IN SCHOOL. No lock down. No warning. Nothing. I even have proof of this claim, UNLIKE your site, mainly claiming your half-ass opinion of these two fine boys, of which I know very well and have associated with on many occasions, which, in my opinion, says a lot about your credibility as an Editor and a Journalist. But two kids want to hunt in the woods to relieve themselves from the stress of having to go to school and deal with racial profiling, the same racial profiling this site advertises, and you people make them out to be mass murders. Then I see that after Alex himself posted what really happened on that day, you turn a complete 360 degrees and try to get a picture of him and everything for the "Anniversary" of the occasion ? If he's such a bad kid and you speak so negatively about him, why would you want his picture ? Is it because you want to expose him in a negative light like you already have? Is that how you make a living? You fail to mention that football players of that School have felony arrests for theft and criminal conspiracy, but you're gonna jump on the band wagon of making two innocent kids look like they're off their medicine and they're gonna kill somebody. If that's the case, then why does medicine make children act this way? Isn't that a problem?

This is the incident I was referring to about the robbery that happened blocks away from the Stroudsburg High School and Morey Elementary School.

Dumpster diving? Robbery suspects found in trash bin
3 men from Bronx allegedly involved in home invasion
October 19, 2008
STROUDSBURG — Three alleged armed and masked thugs from the Bronx fled from a home invasion, ran through a cemetery and then tried to hide from police in a garbage Dumpster.

Police say the men entered the residence at 1076 Dreher Ave. at about 11:30 a.m. (!!!)Friday. They wore ski masks, gloves and hooded sweatshirts. Two of the men had handguns.

At 11:30 a.m. !!! Kids were supposed to be in School and I heard NOTHING about a lock down or any type of safety precaution or any action taken at all to protect these children. But kids go hunting 15 miles away from the School and all of a sudden it's Columbine all over again? That's pretty messed up, if you ask me.