At first glance the numbers are staggering. 17 school shootings in the first two months of 2018. Look back and since the year 2000 there have been 130 shootings at elementary, middle and high schools, along with 58 at colleges and universities. This doesn’t even include any other incidents of gun violence in America. But are these numbers accurate?
“Fake news” claims aside, if you break down the numbers you see that things aren’t always as they seem. These numbers include any time a gun was discharged anywhere in or near a school. They include suicides, incidents where no one was injured, and incidents of people in arguments. This in no way negates the serious epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings we are seeing, but the difficulty of reporting accurate data only succeeds in sensationalizing, and over simplifying, a scary modern trend of violence in America. Blurry definitions of what constitutes a mass shooting, the FBI changes theirs often, coupled with a lack of cohesiveness and information sharing among agencies, contributes even further to the confusion. The line between mass shootings, school shootings, and other types of gun violence is often crossed with one another, but the motivation and context of these crimes have extremely different causes. There is no doubt inflated numbers, and exaggerated accounts fuel public sympathy. It can also contribute to apathy.
But does any of this really matter? Isn’t one incident, one report of mass casualties, not enough to force a change in the way we, and our elected officials, think and enact policy? Apparently not. It’s enough to cause social media dialog and trending hashtags, but those things don’t save lives. All the prayers in the world won’t change policy. The sad fact is political roles play a huge part in inconsistent definitions, and limit access to information. Political agendas and rhetoric take precedence over human lives. The very same politicians offering prayers are also hanging us out to dry.
For example, in 1996 Congress prohibited the CDC from funding public health research on issues related to firearms. And guess what, it was under direct pressure from the NRA. (atlantic.com) And as of this year there is still no comprehensive federal data base on gun deaths. Added to that are many examples of the FBI dropping the ball. Dylann Roff who was responsible for the Charleston South Carolina church massacre, Omar Marteen the gun man in the Pulse nightclub tragedy, the shooter in the recent church massacre in Texas, what do they all have in common? The FBI knew about them, or had tips that they were capable of violent acts. And in this weeks Florida school shooting the FBI had received a tip in early January that the shooter had made threatening statements, had suspect social media accounts, and they knew where he was. But they never shared the information with local authorities. Florida governor Rick Scott is now calling for the resignation of FBI director Christopher Wray, as well he should.
Something has to be done. Our elected officials need to stand up and listen. There is no easy fix to the complex culture of violence our country is currently facing, but that doesn’t mean things can’t be done. I was filled with hope when I saw on television this morning five young adults from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. They were well spoken, very articulate, and had well thought out statements and ideas for our elected officials. Including direct messages for President Trump. If these kids who just went through this terrible ordeal don’t drive the message home for millions of people across this country, I don’t know what will. The common sense approaches they were talking about were ones I had been mulling over all weekend. I feel there is a three prong approach to this issue,
One course of action won’t be enough. Here are our three ideas:
Lessen, or completely do away with, the stranglehold special interest groups have on Washington, This includes the most dangerous of them all, the NRA. $250 million dollars per year from just the NRA alone is funneled into driving policy and influencing legislators and voters. Our politicians should be working for us. Not corporations and special interest groups. This is a problem that will not be solved overnight, but it has to be looked at. Speak in the voting booth. Get out and vote if your state is having a midterm elections. Research who your local politicians are tied to. Sadly that’s all we can do.
Common sense gun laws. This is a biggie, the hot button issue. I can say as a licensed gun owner I have a vested interest in this. And I totally agree with stricter gun laws. I live in Massachusetts which has the third strongest gun laws on the books. You have to jump through hoops to be licensed, as you should be. (Massachusetts took it upon itself to outlaw bump stocks last month. A bill that was passed in the Massachusetts senate shortly after last year’s Vegas shootings.) I am in agreement with banning assault weapons, banning high capacity magazines, universal background checks, a federal database, data reporting, and mandatory, and repetitive, training and safety classes. Let’s not allow those convicted of felonies and certain misdonemers to own guns. Ban sales of weapons at gun shows. And yes look into the mental health status of anyone looking to buy a weapon. I in no way want to restrict anyone’s second amendment rights, like I said I have a vested interest. But you don’t need an AR15 to go hunting or defend your home. These are the weapons that are continually getting into the hands of mass shooters. And yes, people will still find a way to get guns illegally. Crimes will still be committed, but the chance to stop these events and limit casualties can’t be overlooked. Common sense gun laws will not take away the second amendment, but they just might protect our children.</li>
<li>And lastly, and maybe my most important point, community. Bring back a sense of community and belonging. Allow parents to parent. Stress the importance of family. Reduce children’s exposure to violence and address the impact of trauma at an early age.Unshackle the CDC and restore their freedom to study the issue. Fund public health initiatives. Tell the president Now is not the time for budget cuts and de-nding community based programs. Encourage communities to actively look for a way to engage people, let them put down the phones and video games and relate to each other. Stop this culture of us v them. Allow schools to teach tolerance. And let’s face it, we can’t rely on government to do this. Not when we have a president who encourages violence and is dividing the country. WE need to go out into our communities and be a force for change.
The time for hashtags and empty prayers is over. Action is needed. Our elected officials are not stepping up to the plate, we have to stand up and lead by example and say enough is enough. Our children deserve better. Our communities deserve better.