Another school shooting. There have been three this week.
Yesterday at Marshall County High in Benton, Kentucky, a 15-year-old boy armed with a handgun went to school and opened fire. Two of the students he shot, a 15-year-old boy and a 15-year-old girl, died. Another fourteen were injured, many of them critically. Five were flown to Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Several were shot in the head. One student who was shot in the shoulder may need to have their arm amputated.
It’s worth noting that there was an armed resource officer at the school that morning. However, a person with hate in their heart and a gun in their hand will always have the element of surprise on their side.
There are many questions yet to be answered. Why did the shooter decide to do this? And how was he able to get his hand on a loaded gun? Who did the gun belong to? Most school shooters use guns from home, guns that are not secured. Guns that are accessible. Storing guns responsibly not only prevents kids from unintentionally shooting themselves or someone else, they also can prevent tween and teen firearm suicides. And, they can prevent school shootings.
There are other questions, too. Why does our country continue to accept these shootings as inevitable? Why do we accept that they happen over and over? These shootings happen in big schools and small schools. They happen in urban cities, affluent suburbs, and rural towns. The only common denominator of course is guns. And, almost all the shooters are white males. No one ever thinks it will happen where they live or at their kids’ school. But in our country, they happen often. Most are barely even covered on the news.
It doesn’t have to be this way, you know. It’s not like this in other developed countries. There are not more “mentally ill” people in other counties. There are not more video games in other countries. There are not more “evil” people in other countries. But, there are not more guns than people in other countries, either.
Did you know that last year, there were 44 school shooting incidents in elementary and secondary schools resulting in 25 child deaths and 60 child injuries? Probably not because in the news cycle these days, the only shootings that get much media attention, whether they are at schools or anywhere else, are the ones with dozens of fatalities.
In 2016, there was a shooting at an elementary, middle or high school every 8.3 days.
On Monday around 8am, in tiny Italy, Texas, a 16-year-old armed with .380 handgun went to school at shot and injured a 15-year-old girl. Later that same day in New Orleans, while students ate lunch outside, a pickup truck drove by Net Charter High School and opened fire. No one was injured, which was truly lucky. Often the only difference between being hit by a bullet is just a matter of inches. And for that matter, often the only difference between being injured or killed by a bullet is a matter of inches.
Another question that must be asked is why our elected leaders choose to do nothing? Make no mistake – the choice to offer up “thoughts and prayers” instead of resolving to do something is a conscious choice. It’s been 24 hours since the shooting in Kentucky and the president has not acknowledged it himself, although he has found time to tweet on a variety of other subjects. And let’s also be clear that the collective shrugging of shoulders as if there’s nothing that can be done is also a choice because there are things that can be done. There are many things that can be done, in fact, to address gun violence while still respecting the second amendment. But doing something means pushing back on National Rifle Association talking points. And not taking their money. It also means studying the volumes of published peer-reviewed academic research and implementing evidenced-based policies that can reduce the number of people – the number of CHILDREN – who are injured or killed by bullets every day in our country. While we will never be able to stop all gun violence, we can take steps to reduce it.
While we can’t prevent every shooting, we can prevent some. And that is something.