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Another Day, Another School Massacre

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The latest school massacre took place yesterday in Lansing, Michigan — ninety miles from our home. This was the sixty-seventh mass shooting in the United States since January 1, 2023. A man opened fire at Michigan State University, killing three students and critically wounding five others. I wept as I watched news coverage of the massacre, but my sorrow quickly turned to anger. I knew that before the sun rose on a new day, several things would happen:

  • Democrats will call for stricter gun control laws.
  • Republicans will say now is not the time to talk about stricter gun control laws.
  • Tough-on-crime politicians will call for increased police funding and stricter school security measures
  • The NRA will decry the shooting, but reject any and all calls for gun control reform.
  • Gun-toting Evangelical Christians will 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 have mental health problems, often untreated.
  • The shooters were either bullied or viewed as social outcasts, not fitting into the cliques that dominate 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 types of fast-firing, high-capacity firearms.
  • 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? Yes, 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 Republicans, 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 Marshal 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. 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.

So what can be done?

First, universal background checks must be strictly enforced, and 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 that 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 own 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, schools must do a better job of 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 reduce 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.

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Parkland School massacre.


Bruce Gerencser, 65, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 44 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist.

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  1. Avatar

    At this point the NRA is a gun manufacturer lobby. To sell more guns they need yokels to purchase them and they need to be able to sell them without a lot of red tape or training. They also lobby yokels to demand irrational gun rights. The 2nd amendment gives the right to purchase a semi-automatic gun any more than it gives the right to purchase a grenade. The NRA is creating an untenable situation, as mass shootings become more and more common, there will eventually be a reaction to ban pretty much everything, when really all they need to do is keep it out of teens and crazies. If you want to be able to purchase weapons, you should advocate to reel in the NRA manufacturer lobby.

  2. Avatar

    “GET THE FUCKING MONEY OUT OF POLITICS!” That’s really a tremendous part of the problem – the gun lobby owns a lot of politicians.

    My kids and your grandkids grew up with active shooter drills. My niece was student teaching at the middle school associated with the Marjorie Stoneman HS where a massive shooting occurred – that was her introduction to teaching.

    My cousin’s son is a freshman at Michigan State – he is physically ok, but damn…..

  3. Avatar

    The year I graduated high school “Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir” was the top song. There was plenty of sex and drugs going on in my high school, too. My parents had friends into swinging and key parties, the pastor of the church I attended was a closeted gay (he came out after I went to college and later tragically died of AIDS). The world hasn’t changed at all, except we are more open about our activities.

  4. Avatar

    After Sandy Hook, it was clear that horrible gun murders wouldn’t be stopped, not on a national level. Because the death of little kids wasn’t enough to stop them. I figure if the people in the seats of power (Congress) were gunned down, it MIGHT make a difference.

  5. Avatar

    BJW-we almost had political leaders killed on 1/6/21. It didn’t seem to change our opinions on guns much.

    I work in an elementary school with an emergency latch on the door. The front of the classroom is like an aquarium with floor to ceiling windows. We are on a busy street with a fence that would be easy to scale. I go through the charade every year with my fourth graders on how to build a barricade and “ hide” in the back of the room under a large table. There really is nowhere to hide and nowhere to go. I know there will be more school shootings; I just hope my school isn’t one of them.

  6. Avatar
    Constitutional Insurgent

    Ben, at Meerkat Musings said that you were a logical guy, so here goes. I can appreciate the emotion after events where people have lost their lives, but we should always strive to be factually correct, no? Unless of course disinformation is the goal, which many in the gun control camp have proven themselves (in their own words) complicit in.

    AR pattern rifles (of which their are many, many varieties of) don’t fire any faster than any other semi-automatic firearm, the rate of fire is how fast you pull the trigger… with any semi-automatic firearm. Semi-automatic firearms also don’t fire “large volume bursts”. Nor, if you’ve read some other media falsehoods recently, do they render hunted animals ‘destroyed’. As evidenced by the many thousands who hunt with AR pattern rifles. But I mean, hey…..if you want to ban the AR-15 and call it a day, I could almost get behind that. Since it wouldn’t affect my AK or Galil.

    And “legitimate reason”? I can come up with a hundred. It’s beyond absurd to me that you would grant the State the power to dictate what a Citizen has a “legitimate reason” in owning something explicitly tied to a Constitutional Right.

    Now, I largely agree with your statement on background checks. However, they are already tied to a national system (NICS). It’s the individual states and localities that have been failing to submit information to the DOJ, that would prevent many of these criminal shooters to legally acquire a firearm. The only means to enforce ‘universal’ background checks however, is a firearm registry….which aside from being a pipe dream, wouldn’t net nearly half of the legally owned firearms in this country. I have unkind words for anyone whop would deny a Veteran the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, due to a PTSD rating.

    I think open carry is foolish, but open and concealed should be legal. Yes, bullying on school should be punished. Parents should also teach their kids to defend themselves. Bullying isn’t remotely new. People committing suicide pr conducting a mass shooting, is.

    Magazines. Here we go again with “legitimate need”. Whatever number you’d offer as the top end would be arbitrary and undefendable other than the emotion behind the offer. Gun owners already have broad definition of standard capacity and high capacity. We’re good with that.

    But….I’m perfectly fine with the gun control camp directing all of their ire against the NRA. That organization is corrupt and ineffective. State-based groups and national ones like SAF and GOA are far, far more effective in the legislative and judicial realm.

    This nation is trying to put a band-aid on a problem that isn’t the guns (which are more difficult to acquire than at any time in our nations history). The problem is the self entitled, leisure pursing society that cares more about disposable consumer goods and social media distractions, than they do parenting or protecting their families.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      I am aware of how AR-15 and other assault weapons work, having shot both semi-automatic and automatic firearms years ago. I watched my father sit at the dining room table and convert semi-automatic weapons into fully automatic ones. Today, we have bump stocks that can alter the typical use of certain weapons.

      Guns are the problem, and until we recognize that and do something about it, mass shootings will continue to happen. While there are sociological and psychological issues to address, at this point I don’t give a shit about them. It is time to go something directly about what are clearly weapons of mass destruction.

    • Avatar

      This is the typical blather you hear from a gun rights person who has no desire to regulate anything or make any real changes that would reduce mass murder. Apparently anything can be sacrificed to honor the holy right of gun ownership. Even children. Even your own relatives.

      I hear all of this is needed for self protection, even though very few of the guns out there are used in self defense. I hear more guns would prevent gun crime, even though the number of guns owned in the USA is incomprehensible high.

      It’s always interesting when one appeals to logic, then goes on to ignore logic or fail to see how their own opinion is nothing more than opinion influenced by hyperbole and fear mongering.

      But hey, I guess the logic fits the chosen name. It speaks volumes to about this person.

        • Avatar

          That is a quite humorous response. It just shows your refusal to truly deal with the issues of dead children and gun violence. Just avoid the topic by belittling the person who points out the issues of your “logic”.

          Yet the same issues remain, and you still continue to ignore them in your desire to protect your holy right to keep guns regardless of the number of people senselessly killed.

          You can keep up weak attempts to insult me (trust me, your insult is waaaaayyyy at the bottom of what I hear), or you can stick to “logic” and consider truths you ignore.

          • Avatar

            You can’t point out anything I have said that is a lie. You just choose to continue to ignore and attack. It just shows you really have little concern other than keeping all regulation away from guns. Great plan, it’s working so well.

    • Avatar

      You gun people need to grow up. Your choice of phrase doesn’t help: ‘gun control camp’, for example, as though gun control is something undesirable. Even the most fanatic gun owners favour an element of control, albeit to an almost meaningless level, so what you should say is ‘meaningful gun control’.

      You are completely wrong in saying that guns aren’t the problem. Whilst it is certainly true that someone has to operate the gun, the simple fact is that nobody gets shot when no gun is present. When guns are present they are almost totally useless as a form of defence, and the tiny incidence of occasions where guns have served to neutralise a deadly situation, there have been countless other times when the presence of guns has made a bad situation much worse. There may be a constitutional right to own guns, though many dispute it, but no right is unfettered, and it’s entirely reasonable to expect that if you want to own a gun you are required to meet certain requirements. Background checks, registration of the weapon in a central database, a licence to own that would require having undergone some form of training and achieved a certain standard, and compulsory insurance. Moves should be made to try and bring every gun into this control, perhaps via amnesty offers….but it isn’t going to happen so long as the issue of guns occupies an area in the public psyche that defies any attempt at reason.

      • Avatar
        Constitutional Insurgent

        Gun control camp is far more polite than what they call those of us who defend the 2nd Amendment.

        You would agree I presume, that your side shouldn’t traffic in falsehoods, right? As occurred in the original piece, prompting my response.

        I respect your opinion, as that what the crux of your comment was.

        • Avatar
          Bruce Gerencser

          There were no lies in my post. None. Nada. Zero.

          Gist of post. We have a problem with mass shootings. Guns are central to every shooting. Let’s do something about guns.

          The rest of the post is my opinions about what we should do.

          And, for the record, every point in my post could be enacted and you still could own guns (with the exception of assault weapons).

  7. Avatar
    Jennifer Ann Gagnon

    Investigative journalism idea: have ANY republican politicians lost a child/grandchild/whatever in a school shooting? Have any republican politiicans changed their stance on guns/gun rights/gun reform for ANY reason?

  8. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    Well said, Bruce!

    The same Fundangelicals, MAGATs and other right-wing zealots who can’t be persuaded to support stricter gun regulation after children are killed are, almost invariably, the most fervent opponents of adequately funding education, healthcare or nutrition programs for children—or of abortion under any circumstance.

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Bruce Gerencser