It could happen here. In fact, it did happen here two years ago, on October 8, 2010, when a mentally ill gunman jumped a fence, entered the Kelly Elementary schoolyard and began firing at kids ranging from 7 to 11 years old. Two seven-year-old girls were struck in their arms. It was a miracle nobody died. Had the shooter been carrying the same semi-automatic rifle used by the Sandy Hook Elementary School killer the result would have been a tragedy of the same magnitude.
Yesterday, after several days of grieving for the families who lost loved ones in that small town in Connecticut, we were greeted by a press release from the Carlsbad School District reporting that a high school student had “threatened to cause harm” to other students on December 21. The threat had been made “prior to” the Sandy Hook tragedy. The student has been identified, and school officials say there is “no reason to believe the student has the means to act on this threat” and that they’re keeping in “close contact with the family and school authorities to determine the appropriate next steps in keeping the campus safe.”Following the April 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting that took 32 lives, ABC News reported 323 students had died during the previous 15 years in documented school shootings.
The mass murder of 20 children in Connecticut keeps pace with that annual death rate. Will our response be different because of the age of the victims? Early signals from President Obama and Congress gives me hope, but the push back against gun control from the National Rifle Association is not encouraging.
We’ve already heard claims that gun-free zones, like schools, are “magnets for mass murder,” since shooters know teachers are unarmed. By that line of reasoning, the way to keep school children safe is for teachers to be trained marksman. And who better to train and credential them than the NRA?
But when it comes to gun control, let’s face facts. The current population of the United States is about 314 million. Estimates of privately owned guns range from 190 to 300 million. A 2011 Gallup Poll estimates 47 percent of households own at least one gun.
The question isn’t a matter of number of guns, it’s their availability to the wrong people. New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says gun shows and online shopping results in only about 40 percent of gun purchases made after background checks.
Legislation banning assault weapons, expanding background checks and investing in mental health treatment can all help to reduce the number of tragedies like Columbine and Sandy Hook. But we can all play a part in cultural change. The graphic depiction of violence in video games, on TV and in popular movies thrives only because of its profitability. Censorship in a free society is not the answer. But there’s something hypocritical about weeping over actual violent acts while buying tickets to see them depicted on a screen.
Richard Riehl writes from LaCosta. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org