Reiko Hawkins | On Guns vs. Guitars

Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor
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About 17 years ago, for a period of about two years, I joined a group of Japanese women who informally set up play dates for their children in Santa Clarita. 

Once a week, we’d meet at Summit Park, behind the YMCA in Valencia. While our kids happily played with each other, the moms socialized at the covered picnic area. I was given an alphabetical list of contacts of all the Japanese moms who have participated in this loose-knit play group. At the top of the list was the family name, Berhow. 

I never met Mrs. Berhow, the Saugus High shooter’s mother, yet we have several things in common. As with all the moms in this group, we moved to Santa Clarita from Japan, a country with one of the lowest rate of gun violence in the world.

I am a mother of a biracial son, like Nathan Berhow‘s mom.

My son went to Aikido class; Nathan went to karate class.

My son attended Arroyo Seco Junior High and graduated from Saugus High School. During his senior year, my son was often depressed. Nathan Berhow also attended Arroyo Seco Junior High and then went on to attend Saugus High School. I imagine that Nathan was also depressed in the days before his birthday.

Here’s where things are different between our families.

My husband taught our son how to play guitar. Nathan’s dad taught him how to shoot firearms.

Our family time revolved around music: playing for our own pleasure, performing for a crowd or going to concerts.

The Berhows’ family time included going on hunting trips.

My husband taught our son how to troubleshoot routine problems with guitars, like fixing out-of-tune strings. Nathan’s dad taught him what to do when his gun jammed.

Questions keep arising over and over in my mind. What if, like in an alternate Spider-verse, Nathan was taught how to play guitar from his dad? What if the Berhows went to Foo Fighters concerts for family outings? What if Nathan brought a guitar to school on his birthday? 

Maybe I wouldn’t be writing this today; perhaps many people in the Santa Clarita Valley would be happily going about in their daily routines and dealing with ordinary problems, instead of being shocked and grief-stricken. 

And maybe, maybe, Gracie, Dominic and Nathan would still be living their ordinary suburban student lives at Saugus High School.

Reiko Hawkins

Santa Clarita

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