A teacher at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, a man who once taught Nikolas Cruz, summed things up after Cruz killed 17 people there on Feb. 14: To tell you the truth, I’m not surprised. I’m numbed, the teacher said.
In the wake of the Florida school shooting, with emotions running high, it’s crazy to even bring up the subject, for who am I to understand gun control law or what makes mass killers do what they do?
In fact, the South Florida teacher speaks for me in many ways. I’m numbed as I was 50 years ago hearing reports of Vietnam War casualties: 300 one week, 400 the next. The more I heard, the more calloused I became.
I do not own a gun. I am not a member of the NRA, but I do understand that guns are a fact of life in the US. I also know that we have had gun control laws on the books for decades, but somehow crazy people keep getting their hands these weapons.
Within hours after the Florida shooting, Facebookers whipped into a frenzy, calling for “Policy and change, not thoughts and prayers.” Turn to the government, not God.
And so the blame game began. It’s the NRA’s fault. It’s liberals’ fault. It’s Trump’s fault. The Congress’s fault or the news media, the FBI, the cops, the parents. We need to outlaw all guns, outlaw some guns, arm teachers, hire more guards, install metal detectors at schools.
Beefing up security is expensive. Should we set up TSA-type screening at every school? Do the math. There are less than 200 commercial airports in the US and more than 114,000 public schools. How would that work, exactly?
Meanwhile, some Facebook friends would have me believe the US is the only place mass shootings occur. Yet, the world’s deadliest school shooting was the Beslan School Siege, 334 people died in 2004. That happened in Russia, where people aren’t supposed to have guns.
The next most deadly school shooting occurred in 2014 in Pakistan (149) and 2015 in Kenya (148).
The fourth most deadly school attack occurred in the US, but it was back in 1927. Known as the Bath School Incident in Michigan, 44 people died on May 18, including 38 children. The disaster was the work of the school board treasurer who was upset about his tax bill and his election defeat for township clerk.
Yes, crazy has been around for a long time.
Meanwhile, back on Facebook, a friend called for confiscation of all guns. Another ranted, “vote them out,” assuming, I guess, that another set of “thems” will make guns disappear even though we have a Constitution that guarantees the right to bear arms and a Supreme Court to back it up.
The deadliest shooting in US history happened just four months ago in Las Vegas. Remember that one? 58 people were killed and 851 were injured during a country music concert on Oct. 1. My husband and I drove by the Mandalay Hotel on Oct. 14. Two windows of the hotel were boarded up on the 32nd floor as investigators continued to comb for evidence in the open-air crime scene. It was chilling, even on a warm Las Vegas afternoon.
At that time, the battle cry was to outlaw bump stocks, the device that allowed Stephen Paddock to convert semi-automatic firearms to mimic the firing speed of fully automatics. Until the Vegas incident, I had never heard of a bump stock, but within hours of the massacre, virtually every newscaster—and a lot of Facebookers—were pros on the subject.
Now, after the Florida school shooting, bump stocks are seeping back into the news, but we still don’t know why Paddock fired more than 1,100 rounds of ammo into that Vegas crowd.
“Don’t name the shooter,” some Facebookers suggest. “Don’t give these criminals publicity.”
Good luck with that in a society with a free press. Even so, the idea of no publicity has some merit. Instant attention—even negative attention—drives egos. Today, everyone with a smartphone is a reporter, capable of broadcasting outrageous boasts with an immediate audience, which brings me back to that list of the world’s most deadly school shootings. We recognize some of the names–Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Columbine–but not Garissa, Ma’alot, Dunblane, Erfurt, Shiguan. That’s because the latter ones are in Kenya and Israel and Scotland and Germany and China.
Crazy isn’t exclusively American, but it does seem to be more common everywhere these days, which begs the question: How is life different today from say, 1927? The answer might explain a few things.