Another Day, Another School Massacre

gun control

Cartoon by Scott Bateman

The latest school massacre took place in Florida. A nineteen-year-old former student opened fire as school was dismissing, killing seventeen students and teachers. I watched one of the cellphone videos that was shot during the shooter’s maniacal rampage. I listened as teenagers whimpered and screamed, hoping that they would avoid injury or death. I wept as I watched the video, but my sorrow quickly turned to anger. I knew that before the sun rose on a new day that several things would happen:

  • Democrats would call for stricter gun control laws.
  • Republicans would say now is not the time to talk about stricter gun control laws.
  • The NRA would decry the shooting, but reject any and all calls for gun control reform.
  • Evangelical Christians would flood social media with “thoughts and prayers” comments.

What do we know about school shootings? Is there a pattern or some sort of common denominator? You bet there is. Let me list a few of them:

  • The shooters are overwhelmingly young, white male students. Many of them come from dysfunctional homes.
  • Many of the shooters had mental health problems, often untreated.
  • The shooters were either bullied or viewed as social outcasts, not fitting into the cliques that dominate public school life.
  • The shooters used the internet to access materials that helped them plan the shootings.
  • The shooters used the internet to research past shootings, often finding inspiration from the carnage perpetrated by other shooters.
  • The weapon of choice is the AR-15 or similar type guns.
  • Most shooters used large capacity clips for their weapons of choice.
  • Most shooters had large amounts of ammunition on hand.

Now, after reading this list, is there anything that our government leaders can do to put an end to the violence? Yep, there is, but unfortunately, thanks to the NRA and a number of congressional Republicans, what should be done will be ignored. These cowards will, instead, call for armed school guards and extensive school security. Some of these NRA-fearing men and women will even call for the arming of school teachers and custodial staff. After all, what better way to put an end to school shootings than add more guns to the equation, right? What could possibly go wrong?

The NRA — a Chihuahua-sized group with a Rottweiler bark — and its lackeys will remind Americans that the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, suggesting that gun ownership without restriction is a sacred right that must never, ever be infringed upon. Democrats will point at the Trump administration, blaming them for doing nothing about school gun violence. They will rightly point out that a Republican-controlled Congress passed legislation that made it easier for people with mental illness to purchase firearms. What these self-righteous liberals forget is that Democrat Barack Obama inhabited 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for eight years, and in his time there nothing was done to meaningfully combat school shootings. So please, stop with the political finger-pointing. Both parties are neck-deep in the blood of school children, and they should be ashamed of themselves for their paralytic inaction.

I grew up in a home where shooting firearms were very much a part of life. My dad was a police reservist, and my brother was the Marshall of Tombstone, Arizona, for many years, and also a detective. I started shooting guns and hunting while I was still in elementary school. I bought my first gun — a bolt-action Mossburg .410 with a modified choke — at the age of twelve. I, at one time, owned numerous shotguns, high-powered rifles, and a smattering of handguns. When I was a young man, my dad owned a gun store in Sierra Vista, Arizona. I worked in the store from time to time, and on weekends I would accompany my dad as he set up tables at area gun shows. Dad’s store gave me access to a plethora of firearms to shoot, everything from a .458 Winchester Magnum to a .22K Hornet. I enjoyed hunting and target shooting with my dad, one of the few things we did together.

I wrote the above so that unaware readers would know that I am not some Commie liberal out to take away everyone’s gun. I do not currently own any firearms, choosing instead to do my shooting with a camera. That said, I don’t look down my nose at people who own guns, nor do I think they are to blame for school shootings.  Solving gun violence in schools requires political courage and moral certitude. It requires our rulers to act in the best interest of the people, and not the interests of the NRA, Winchester, Remington, Smith and Wesson, or Glock.

people killed school shooting

Some of the people killed in the Florida school shooting

So what can be done?

First, universal background checks must be strictly enforced, connected to a nationwide database. Gun purchasers should be screened for prior convictions of violent crimes, especially domestic violence. Gun purchasers should be screened for mental health issues. Mental health providers should be required to flag patients with mental health issues which make them a danger to themselves or others. The U.S. military and the VA should be required to flag all soldiers who are being treated for PTSD or other mental disorders that make them a danger to themselves or others.

Second, all guns should be licensed. All new purchases should have a seven to fourteen-day waiting period, allowing sufficient time for background checks to be performed. A database of those who purchased and those who owns guns should be available to law enforcement.

Third, all open-carry and concealed-weapon laws should be repealed, putting an end to the Wild West mentality in many states and communities. Only law enforcement should be permitted to carry firearms in public.

Fourth, the manner in which the government and insurance companies handle mental health treatment must be changed in ways that make it possible for people to get prompt, ongoing, and comprehensive care.

Fifth, school leaders must address the ongoing bullying crisis in public schools. Teachers must be taught to be aware of bullying and to take steps to stop it when they see it happening.  While I suspect it is impossible to put an end to cliques, school must do a better job fostering inclusiveness. Perhaps it is time to put an end to the jocks-rule mentality that dominates most schools.

Sixth, semi-automatic firearms such as the AR-15 should be immediately banned. Any firearm capable of firing large volume bursts should be banned. There is no legitimate reason for anyone to own military-style firearms.

Seventh, large (high) capacity magazines and clips should be immediately banned. There is no legitimate need for owning guns with large capacity magazines, nor is there any reason for owning clips holding dozens of rounds of ammunition. It also goes without saying that bump stocks such as the ones used in the Las Vegas massacre should be outlawed.

Eighth, politicians should be banned from taking financial or in-kind donations from the NRA and the gun lobby. The NRA, along with the Ted Nugents of the world, are part of the problem. These promoters of the means of violence should not be given larger-than-life influence over the political process. (As my editor mentioned to me, this would surely not pass constitutional challenge. Fine. Let’s reverse the effects of Citizens United. Let’s make public the names of ALL campaign donors. Let’s ban corporate donations, soft money, and the other endless ways politicians hide who and where donations are coming from. In fact, let’s federally fund elections and limit campaigning as Great Britain does to a short time before time election day. In other words, GET THE FUCKING MONEY OUT OF POLITICS!)

If the United States wants to put an end to gun violence in general and school shootings in particular, it must look at how countries such as Great Britain and Australia have crafted their gun control laws and act accordingly. Tinkering at the edges, making meaningless, superficial changes to gun laws is not the answer. The rest of the Western world looks at the United States and thinks that the Yanks have gone bonkers. Can they not see what must be done to put an end to gun violence in their schools? Those of us who don’t suck at the teat of the NRA know what must be done. It is up to us to force our political leaders to stop the blood flowing in the hallways of our schools. If our elected officials won’t act, then it is time for us to get men and women who will. Doing nothing or next to nothing is not the answer.

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15 Comments

  1. GeoffT

    Perhaps the time has come simply to repeal the second amendment?

    I don’t suggest that would be easy, even possible, but open consideration of it probably widens the options that actually are available. My view is that, because so many of these mass shootings occur in schools, that it may well be a groundswell of young people who eventually force change. After all, what can people such as Pat Robertson possibly add to the debate?!

    Reply
    1. ObstacleChick

      When the 2nd amendment was written, there were only single loading weapons available. Also, the 2nd amendment allowed for citizens to format militias for protection. Now we have guns that can spray a target with bullets, and we have standing armed forces and armed law enforcement. Lots of changes since the Constitution was written.

      Things definitely need to change, and after each massive shooting we hope that will be the one to turn the tide….

      Reply
  2. Melody

    I love that chart, especially the well-regulated bit. What do they think it means?

    Reply
  3. Scott

    I’d add. Have the NRA sponsor and pay for gun certification classes for ALL gun owners every year. Let’s make sure people who own guns are educated about what guns are and are certified in gun safety and do it every year. Cars kill lots of people every year and we make people be licensed to operate them. Why not do the same for guns? And if people are freaked out about being licensed, let the NRA do it and regulate them on it. It’s a much better thing than lobbying to make anyone sure can buy and own gun with no logical restraint.

    And some idiot politician running for office in Kansas is having a AR 15 giveaway lottery.

    Reply
  4. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    Mass shootings in the US: there have been 1,624 in 1,870 days

    No other developed nation comes close to the rate of US gun violence. Americans own an estimated 265million guns, more than one gun for every adult.

    Data from the Gun Violence Archive reveals there is a mass shooting – defined as four or more people shot in one incident, not including the shooter – nine out of every 10 days on average

    https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2017/oct/02/america-mass-shootings-gun-violence

    Reply
  5. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    Just 3 percent of American adults own half of the nation’s firearms, according to the results of a Harvard-Northeastern survey of 4,000 gun owners.

    The survey’s findings support other research showing that as overall rates of gun ownership has declined, the number of firearms in circulation has skyrocketed. The implication is that there are more guns in fewer hands than ever before. The top 3 percent of American adults own, on average, 17 guns apiece, according to the survey’s estimates.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/09/19/just-three-percent-of-adults-own-half-of-americas-guns/?utm_term=.1dd095b928e9

    Reply
  6. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

    Murder rates in Great Britain

    There were 571 homicides (murder, manslaughter and infanticide) in the year ending March 2016 in England and Wales. This represents an increase of 57 offences (11%) from the 514 recorded in the previous year.

    The number of homicides has shown a general downward trend over recent years and the 571 recorded was still one of the lowest levels since the late 1980s, despite having increased from the previous year.

    There were 9.9 offences of homicide per million population, and the homicide rate for males (13.8 per million population) was more than twice that for females (6.0 per million population).

    Women were far more likely than men to be killed by partners or ex-partners (44% of female victims compared with 7% of male victims), and men were more likely than women to be killed by friends or acquaintances (35% of male victims compared with 13% of female victims).

    There were 38 homicide victims aged under 16 years in the year ending March 2016, the lowest number since data on homicide victims by age of victim was first published in 1972.

    The most common method of killing continued to be by knife or other sharp instrument with 213 victims killed in this way, accounting for over 1 in 3 (37%) homicides.

    The 26 homicide victims (5% of the total) that were killed by shooting showed an increase of 5 from the previous year, but is otherwise the lowest number since 1980 (19 homicides).

    https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/compendium/focusonviolentcrimeandsexualoffences/yearendingmarch2016/homicide

    Reply
  7. Brian

    As a Canadian observer, I cannot see how USA will ever legislate what might appear as common sense controls regarding automatic weapons. The same observations and arguments recycle themselves and then damaged, sick people pull triggers again and demonstrate their disability in senseless slaughter. One might see parallels with American empire building slaughters in Afghanistan and other places, scenarios where countless innocent people are bombed away for a dubious (at best) cause. Do some Americans still actually believe they are spreading peace over the world instead of war? How much difference does it make to slaughter for oil or real estate than because you have been bullied to distraction, harmed until you consider self-harm to end it all? The Trump Dump on all the world is the cry of a rich, entitled dumbo who feels bullied because he cannot just take everything for himself without people protesting. His Make America Great Again dovetails with the ugliest extremism of the country, the white supremicists, the patriarchal fundamentalists…. And yet, America has been so incredibly dumbed-down with religion and patriotism that they cannot resist authority enmasse. The Vietnam era of mass protest seems a long time ago.
    I work with a volunteer at the Canadian Red Cross who is a an American soldier survivor of Afghanistan, now psychologically disabled (his lic. plate displays it by actually printing out “Disabled Veteran” across it). He comes from a Christian, military family and is now ‘retired’ in his forties. He has to support his life with meds and it breaks my heart to see how America has fucked him forever. He believed and went willingly to his demise. The USA is by far the most actively dangerous country internationally and the Cross of Christ leads the troops. My friend volunteer knows the truth now and is now deemed disabled. You have to be sick in America to see the emporer is wearing no clothes, to see that the triune God is a monster delusion.

    Reply
  8. Autumn

    I have two comments, first, bullying is VERY hard for adults to see. The adults who choose teaching as a career frequently were very happy students. Seldom were they the outcasts in school. Why? When you were the picked on child the very last thing you want to do as an adult is stand in front of 20-30 teenagers and try and convince them they need to learn Algebra (or anything else) The other reason it’s hard to see is that the perpetrators seldom act in front of adults, but sometimes the kids who are harassed will act out in front of an adult and then they get punished instead of the bully who’s going to convince you they’re the victim and then laugh when they see the true victim outside the principal’s office.

    Social aggression among girls can be hard to spot, it’s a dirty look, it’s no room at the lunch table and the Snapchats that adults NEVER see. Rumors and lies, dirty tricks like pretending to befriend you then telling damaging stories…it’s a dirty war that breaks you down even when you try and shake it off.

    I was that child, the only revenge fantasy I ever had was of suing my school district for millions and living riotously off the proceeds.

    Second of all, our mental health care in the united states is in tatters, notice how I didn’t call it a system? It’s not, it’s very hard to pay for care except out of pocket and in some places finding appropriate care is hard even if you have the money. It’s broken to bits and nobody is working on any real change. So a kid who’s not fitting in is poorly counseled and nobody really helps them to fit in, to regulate their moods and learn how to manage ups and downs. If the home situation is bad then they have no refuge whatsoever. It’s not so much that people with mental illness get guns and shoot up schools it’s that we do NOTHING substantive to help these kids…we act like 3 sessions with an MSW will fix them forever…No, no it won’t.

    Reply
    1. Brian

      Well said, Autumn, and so true. Three sessions with an MSW is hardly a bandaid. What young people need is to be allowed to say and feel it as it is to them and to have advocates who are available to support them through the very difficult gauntlet of scrueling. There are those who have pointed out that school is not for learning primarily but is for babysitting and herding. Stand in line. Be quiet. Obey. As long as children mean so little to us in the course of human affairs, they will occupy their lowly experience and I trust complain and rage against it. Like a parent who hits a child and believes the assault is natural and necessary, the school system manages and bullies young people not to create learned and free human beings but to create ‘good’ American citizens, blind, patriotic flag wavers, compliant and able to be directed.
      Now all the people cry out and say why didn’t the FBI listen and why did we miss the signs but they always miss the signs because the system that produces/supports the harm is what they choose. How can you see when you are blind? Children are not very important, not at all.

      Reply
    2. Zoe

      The adults who choose teaching as a career frequently were very happy students. Seldom were they the outcasts in school. Why? When you were the picked on child the very last thing you want to do as an adult is stand in front of 20-30 teenagers and try and convince them they need to learn Algebra (or anything else)

      Just want to mention that this isn’t always the case. I am the mother of two children who were bullied in various ways throughout their early years and school years. The one was bullied right through school years and is today a successful award-winning teacher in their field. The other is a mental-health counsellor dealing with some of the most extreme crisis problems a human can experience/face.

      I don’t share this to minimize your experience at all Autumn. I can read here your heartbreak. I just think it’s such an individualistic thing. I live in Canada as do our children and their families. Still, there isn’t a day that goes by that I am not concerned for their safety. Every time I hear of an in-school shooting my heart aches for those who give their lives to save the children. I know that in a similar vane our own children would give their own lives to protect the children. I well up with tears hoping this never happens and my heart aches because every child that dies like this and every teacher/staff-member that dies like this is by extension, my own. 🙁

      I use to attend all the school trips when our children were growing up. I was that one parent who climbed up into the buses and was always assigned the child who no one would sit with, the child with mental/physical problems, the child from difficult home circumstances, and always always, the bullied child. I see some of those children now adults out in the world and I think, maybe, just maybe I made a difference? I didn’t just sit with them. I engaged them wholeheartedly. One of those children didn’t make it to his grade 8 graduation choosing instead to leave this world behind. He was also a part of our church club (I was in lay youth ministry). Not seeing him today makes me wonder, could I have done more?

      I don’t disagree with a thing you’ve said here. I just know that sometimes there are children who make it through.

      I grew up in a home with a shotgun in the rafters and gunshells nearby. I hated that gun. I feared it every single day of my life. I think of the times someone in my home in anger (and there was a lot of it) might load it and end all of our lives. 🙁

      Reply
      1. Autumn

        I see what you are saying Zoe, I also work as a substitute school nurse in various districts in my area. I’ve also watched assorted situations in my children’s schools get handled well, or poorly. My children go to a to a tiny school, under 300 pupils preK-12. An example, There is a very strong clique among the 11th graders and they have gotten into assorted problems, a threatening snapchat attacking a 12th grader, with screenshots and an angry parent at a school board meeting. There was NO substantial disciple for these girls, NOTHING. They have also frozen out a newcomer to school and my daughter and her 12th grader friends befriended the 11th grade newcomer. The administration decided to say that the newcomer couldn’t sit at the senior lounge table because she wasn’t a senior. That’s NOT how you treat someone who’s having social issues!! So while many people in the schools try hard to help, they also can be incredibly tone deaf.

        Reply
  9. Rebecca

    I’m definitely in favor of sensible, and consistently enforced gun control laws, as well as providing better access to mental health help for students. Schools should have zero tolerance toward bullying.

    But, I also think we need additional security in our schools. It is sad to think that it is come to this in our culture. My husband can remember the time when students would bring hunting rifles to school, leave them in their vehicles, and go hunting or target shooting after school. No one heard of any mass shootings and murder on the campus.

    The truth is that people bent on doing evil and committing mayhem are going to be able to gain access to weapons in one way or another. We need to take realistic counter measures. I don’t feel the answer is to repeal the second amendment.

    Sadly, there is probably nothing we can do that will prevent these terrible tragedies altogether.

    Reply
  10. Troy

    Just a thought experiment, if this guy couldn’t get that kind of gun are there other ways he could impose carnage on the student body of the school? Why not just take a car and run people down as school lets out. I’d bet he could take out more than 17 people with that method. I agree a 19 year old shouldn’t be able to go out and buy a rat-a-tat gun like this. I’d limit access to all vanity firearms until the age of 25. (Also note he couldn’t even RENT a car until he was 25)

    The best thing they could do is analyze the failure of the FBI to take this guy seriously. There should be a way for a person’s peers to eliminate their ability to buy a gun. Yes this means some will lose their ability to purchase weapons without a criminal conviction or a mental case evaluation. One of the shooter’s peers mentioned that he’d been an issue since middle school.
    It is best to avoid knee jerk, get rid of all the guns. That might work in Australia but it won’t work in the U.S.
    (Also note that the 2nd amendment isn’t what keeps high volume weapons like the AK-15 legal. It was illegal for ten years starting in the Clinton white house. While it never made it to the supreme court on 2nd amendment grounds this is no doubt because the court wouldn’t have allowed this. These weapons are more akin to bombs and grenades than to fire arms.)

    Reply
    1. Bruce Gerencser (Post author)

      I’m not suggesting getting rid of all guns, though I would love to see it happen. There are classes of guns and accessories that could be banned while still allowing gun owners to have their version of Viagra.

      The FBI failed miserably in this case, as did social services. There’s so much that can and should be done, but due to the outsized influence of the NRA and gun lobby nothing changes. I’m hoping student outrage over the shooting (s) will become this generation’s version of the protests in 1960s against the Vietnam War.

      Reply

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