On January 24, a fifteen-year-old student at the Marshall County High School in western Kentucky killed two other students and wounded over a dozen in school. This made the national news for a day or two and not much more has been heard.
As of January 24, barely three weeks into the month that begins the new year, there were 11recorded shootings at schools. My brief research finds three homicides, two suicides, and at least 20 woundings in these 11 incidents, which were in eight states, scattered around the country. Most were not reported nationally.
Then comes one that seems more notorious, like the killing of two and wounding of over a dozen one day on one campus just over a week ago and we are saddened again. Saddened, but hardly shocked. Through my life of 71 years, there have been terrible shootings on campuses (like the Virginia Tech shooting of April 2007, which left over 30 dead, and University of Texas tower shooting of 1966 which killed 13), but nothing prepared us for December 14, 2012, when at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown CT, 20 young school children and six school staff members were killed during a school day just before Christmas. Twenty children aged six and seven were suddenly dead in their classroom. Their innocent young lives were snuffed out in a flurry of gunfire.
Perhaps there was a time when certain places were thought to be off-limits for shootings, like schools and churches. We now know better. The killing of nine people at Mother Emanuel A. M. E. Church in Charleston SC on June 18, 2015, and the killing of 26 and wounding of 20 at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs TX last November have taught us that there are no safe places.
This is not a Democrat vs. Republican matter. This is an American matter. Every statistical report of gun violence in advanced and prosperous nations like ours puts us off the charts for the most gun violence per capita. Why? Are we a savage country? Have we jettisoned our lofty ideals about all people being created by God with intrinsic merit? Our history sadly witnesses that we have rarely if ever lived up to those ideals, but we still hold them at some level. Those ideals call us to do better and be better.
If we are a good country, which I believe we are, filled with good people, which I believe is true, then why do we allow this human carnage to go on? Does our historic love of freedom, which I value and affirm, mean that we allow this to continue as if it is the new norm and the acceptable price for our freedom? Why is our congress unable to move us in a better direction? Why is the White House silent about these acts of violence, unless they are done by immigrants (which most are not)? Does American exceptionalism (a phrase to which I take exception) mean we are exceptionally violent?
I understand that human nature means that we will not fully eliminate such acts of violence. I understand that even in the countries with the lowest rates of violent acts, some acts of violence still happen, whether by guns, knives, or other means.
In my lifetime we have made great strides in making driving automobiles safer. In my lifetime we have made significant strides in lowering the use of cancer causing cigarettes. We have not eliminated automobile accidents or smoking, but we have moved in better directions with measures that are making positive differences and more will come. Can’t we do the same when it comes to gun violence?
We seem to be at a place where we are numbed to gun violence, even in our schools, unless the numbers of the dead and wounded in any one incident are pretty high. I am pondering such matters and questions.