This column will be by the numbers: 32 dead in the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting; 26 dead, 20 six-year-olds and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012; last week 17 dead at a large Parkland, Florida high school; and 13 dead, 12 students and one teacher at Columbine High School in 1999. That is 88 children and teachers shot and killed while attending classes in only four of the hundreds of school shootings over the last 20 years.
If I don’t stick to math and go off on an emotional tirade about mass murder, it will surely be dismissed as simply a liberal’s rant. Besides, there are people out there who are more qualified than me to pull at your heart-strings and stir your anger. Those better equipped speakers are a 14-year-old who told of seeing blood and bodies as he fled his school, a father who did not lose his child, but was cut off from communication for an hour without knowing her fate, and a brave, but shaken teacher who had to apply her “active shooter” training. There are also people like Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Florida Governor Rick Scott, and Speaker Paul Ryan who made my blood boil with shallow, tiresome rhetoric about “not being the time for discussion”, while avoiding any confessions or showing any regret about how they have worked tirelessly to make buying a gun as easy as humanly possible to please the National Rifle Association (Sen. Rubio has received $3.3 million so far and Rep. Ryan $172,000 for his last election, more than any other Representative in NRA dollars).
You’ve got plenty of words, pro and con, to listen to, so I’ll try to stick to numbers.
We count the dead as the victims, but the spectrum of victims is much, much broader. Consider those 88 fatalities. If they each had two parents, a sibling, and four grandparents, that makes 616 more victims who are left to deal with a lost child. They will never be the same. Those 88 had friends who will miss their mates just as much as family. But, we must return to the high school freshman above who saw his peers strewn about in pools of their own blood. There were some 3,000 students at the Parkland high school, 1,200 at Columbine, 305 at Sandy Hook Elementary, and over 30,000 at Virginia Tech who may have witnessed a scene from which they will never recover. In thoughtful or lonely hours, they will be forced to relive an hour or so of their young lives that was frightening beyond words and re-experience feelings of not knowing if they would live or die. This is the stuff of Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome. Victims all.
At this rate, it is pretty easy to see that the victim count in just these four attacks is in the thousands. Multiply that by the total number of shootings to see that millions of Americans will forever have a dark spot on their lives placed there by a domestic terrorist who managed to get ahold of a gun–many with the blessing of the United States Congress.
There have been 18 school shootings in 2018, and we are only 52 days into the year. That equates to seven five-day school weeks or one shooting every-other day in places where we send our most precious treasure to not only learn, but to be safe. In 2017 there were 70 school shootings. There have been 1,600 mass shootings in the United States since Sandy Hook–six years. 239 of those were in schools with 400 plus gunshot victims–about one school shooting a week. Our record isn’t good.
A full 95% of U.S. citizens support gun legislation, especially small steps like making rigorous background checks a must to buy any gun, limiting clip capacity, and making illegal any altering to the ability to shoot more rounds faster. The NRA will have none of it. They build a Trumpesque wall around the Second Amendment that shall not be encroached upon, not an inch, no matter what.
When we understand that NRA views are propaganda, in the interest of manufactures, and not fact, we also see remedies that do not violate the Second Amendment. Simple statistics show that the states with the most guns and laxest gun laws have the most gun deaths, the most suicides by guns, and most police death by gunshot. The states that have the fewest guns and strictest gun laws have the fewest gun deaths. That is a pretty simple reality.
In 1996, 22 years ago, there was a mass school shooting in England. 16 students and a teacher were killed. Parliament immediately took action and an act, followed by another in 1997 effectively banned private ownership of any handgun. Australia followed suit with strict gun laws the same year after 35 were killed in Tasmania. There has not been a mass school shooting in either country since.
Therefore, if we take these realities to their logical conclusions, the best way to lessen the gun carnage that is a uniquely American problem rendering 10,000 to 15,000 dead each year, is to make it much harder to qualify for gun ownership, manufacture and sell fewer guns, and limit the lethality of the weapons we do sell.
Our own states and the countries with which we share this planet have proof by the numbers.