This item will rub some of you the wrong way. Too bad. In the wake of the Florida school massacre it’s time that we all feel a little discomfort as we move forward.
I’m amazed on social media how many people I know and respect are reverting back to tired pleas for more gun laws. A recent exchange among a couple of my Facebook “friends” essentially asked for more gun laws and bemoaned that none would be forthcoming because of the NRA and corporate interests.
Why do otherwise intelligent men and women insist upon treating tragedies like the one in Florida as exclusively legal problems?
For a moment take the massacre out of what happened at the high school in Florida. Take guns out of the equation too. Absent guns and murder did Cruz break laws? He certainly did. The first law he broke was a municipal statute against trespassing.
Would additional laws against trespassing have stopped Cruz from entering school grounds? If we enact a federal statute that outlaws trespassing will that deter the next mass-shooter? No and no.
School shootings are nothing new but there are disturbing trends. This list comprises school shooting that resulted in deaths in the United States:
– 1764, Enoch Brown massacre, ten deaths
– March 26, 1893, Plain Dealing high school, four deaths
– December 31, 1893, Charleston, six deaths
– May 6, 1940, Pasedena, five deaths
– August 1, 1966, University of Texas, seventeen deaths
– November 12, 1966, Mesa, Arizona, five deaths
– May 4, 1970, Kent State University, four deaths
– July 12, 1976, Fullerton, California, seven deaths
– November 1, 1991, University of Iowa, six deaths
– March 24, 1998, Westside Middle School, five deaths
– May 21, 1998, Thurston High School, four deaths
– April 20, 1999, Columbine High School, fifteen deaths
– March 21, 2005, Red Lake, ten deaths
– October 2, 2006, West Nickel Mines School, six deaths
– April 6, 2007, Virginia Tech, thirty-three deaths
– February 14, 2008, Northern Illinois University, six deaths
– April 2, 2012, Oikos University, seven deaths
– December 14, 2012, Sandy Hook Elementary School, twenty-eight deaths
– June 7, 2013, Santa Monica, six deaths
– October 24, 2014, Marysville Pilchuck High School, five deaths
– October 1, 2015, Umpqua Community College, ten deaths
– November 14, 2017, Rancho Tehama Reserve, six deaths
– February 14, 2018, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, seventeen deaths
(It should be noted that the May 4, 1970 incident at Kent State University wasn’t a typical school shooting; members of the National Guard opened fire on students demonstrating against the Vietnam War. Additionally, the list does not include other school massacres such as the May 18, 1927 Bath Township school massacre in which bombs were used as the instrument of murder.)
What’s disturbing about the above list, aside from the number of lives lost, is the frequency school shootings have occurred over time. 129 years separate the first two shootings. During the 19th Century there were two incidents. During the 20th Century there were nine. During this century so far there have been eleven and most worrisome, since 2012 there has been at least one school shooting resulting in deaths each year with the exception of 2016.
Have we not enacted all sorts of laws since 1764? Did we not enact laws banning so-called assault rifles in 1994? If school shootings are purely a legal problem that can be remedied through laws, why are there as many school shootings in this century already than in the previous two centuries combined?
School shootings aren’t simply a problem that can be legislated out of existence. It might feel good to adopt a hashtag that supports gun control or to rally in the streets with signs and slogans against guns. Such tactics feel good but are no more useful than the “Save Our Girls” hashtag used a few years ago to protest Boko Haram’s kidnapping of young girls in Nigeria. Such tactics are no more than an illusion. They accomplish nothing.
There is a moral component to these school shootings that can’t be overlooked. We live in a culture today that accepts individual isolation via social media and that condones hate as an acceptable form of disagreement and discourse. Don’t believe me?
Check out your social media or better still, find any given post on social media and respond in disagreement. Pick something apolitical and benign. If someone posts that a particular restaurant has the best cheeseburgers in town reply back with a comment that says cheese burgers are inferior to hoagies. Social media will “blow up” in response and if things go “viral” congratulations, you are one step away from being a “sensation”.
It’s important in this day and age to become a “sensation” whether through fame or infamy. The doctors that one day may cure cancer won’t receive the amount of attention someone is given once their viral -– and likely negative — behavior on social media elevates them to sensation-status.
Am I suggesting school shooters crave this sort of attention? I’m neither qualified to make that assessment – that’s a doctor’s job – nor do I mean to suggest as much.
Rather, there is something wrong inside our culture with the behavior we enshrine and condone. Expect what you respect is an old saying that comes to mind. The REM lyric “silence means approval” also comes to mind.
Simply put, we as a culture don’t know how to treat one another as human anymore and we are barely able to communicate the way we used to. Can we start re-learning how?
That question too isn’t mine to answer but I can apply hope and prayer toward it.
In the meantime, the next mass shooter is probably about two-thirds complete in planning his or her attack. Despite all those laws, he or she already has the guns and ammunition. He or she has planned where to trespass and who the victims will be even though there are laws against trespassing and murder. Once the killing is over will we all revert back to social media and the usual pleas before tuning the rest of the world out and devoting attention to our exalted viral sensations?