Another Day, Another Shooting by Steven A. Craig
Lost amidst the expansive sea of corona virus news has been a host of silver linings that are right there in front of us, if we only stop to look. Carbon emission is at its lowest levels since the mass production of the automobile began. Traffic accidents have plummeted as people stay in their homes rather than populate America’s freeways. And there hasn’t been a single school shooting since this whole pandemic shut down schools for the year.
I know that last one seems rather preposterous, but sadly it genuinely took the schools not being open to put a dent in the gun fatality rates in our nation’s schools. In the 46 weeks schools were open in 2019, America suffered 45 school shootings. That’s pretty much one a week. Those numbers are beginning to hit far too close to home, and I should know.
Last week marked the one year anniversary of the STEM school shooting in Highlands Ranch, Colorado where both my children are enrolled. I vividly remember being interrupted from my teaching duties at a nearby charter school in the same district to go down to my boss’s office so that he could inform me that there was an active shooter situation at my kids’ school, the news no parent ever wants to hear. What happened from there was a blur as I rushed down to the packed rec center where parents huddled together desperate to see their children alive again. Unfortunately, for the parents of Kendrick Castillo, that moment never came (by the way, if you are not familiar with this young man’s heroic deeds in those moments as he gave his own life to save his classmates, you really need to read up on him).
But I am not writing this column for Kendrick Castillo’s parents. Sadly, nothing I can say can assuage their grief at the loss of their child. I am writing to try to put a stop to this madness so that no other parents need to know the suffering that they have endured.
And please don’t tell me that this isn’t the time and place for politics. Politics is how we enact change. Community is how we heal. These shootings should make us take stock, and we should use them as the catalyst for changing our nation’s gun culture because failure to do so is an affront to our children and our promise to do what we can to protect them. These shooting incidents should be the flag of our rallying cries for responsible gun legislation because they are a blight on our society. Besides, if we wait for a period after each shooting, they’ll just be another one a week later.
Likewise, please don’t tell me that guns make us safer. No, they don’t. Just stop that right now. You see, we have these things called facts. Let me give you a few. In 2017, the United States had 120.5 guns per 100 residents. Put another way, we had enough guns for every man, woman, and child to have one with a few left over for our pets. The next highest country had less than half that. So we should be really, really safe, right? Yeah, not quite. In that same year, we lost 66 people per million to homicide, a per capita rate more than double that of any other developed nation. In 2016, 36,000 Americans lost their lives to guns, so I don’t want to tramp on your gun parade here with a little thing like facts, but the correlation here isn’t difficult to deduce: more guns = more gun deaths. Period.
Oh, and while you’re at it, please do not try to tell me about other nations that have had mass shootings despite tighter gun control. Of course there have been aberrations in places like Nova Scotia or Denmark. But the mere fact that you can throw out those places from memory indicates how rare they are there. In the U.S., we have had so many, we can’t even keep them all straight. Mention the Colorado shooting, and one might wonder whether you are referring to STEM, the Aurora movie theater, or Columbine. One can never be sure, you know.
Since 1982, there have been 110 mass shootings in the United States, so just what is it going to take to pass meaningful legislation restricting some access to certain classes of guns? Think it impossible? Well, wait just a second there, Skippy. After the Port Arthur shooting in 1996 that claimed 36 lives, Australia passed sweeping gun control acts that outlawed automatic and semi-automatic weapons. And what was the result? Not a single mass shooting over the next 20 years and a precipitous decline in gun deaths in the years that followed. Huh, I guess that thing about “less guns= less gun deaths” really is true.
But what are we going to do about it, that’s what I want to know. Studies consistently show that 90% of Americans favor reasonable gun control, but somehow we lack the political will to get anything accomplished. A pandemic spreads across the U.S. killing 70,000 people, and we shut down our economy and mobilize our entire health care system to fight it. But 36,000 die from gun fatalities each and every year, and somehow we can’t get our political leaders to do a damn thing. As a parent whose kids were involved in a school shooting just last year, I am telling you that this can truly happen anywhere, including your own kids’ school. Keep failing to do anything to prevent it, and it will.
Steven Craig is the author of the best-selling novel WAITING FOR TODAY, as well as numerous published poems, short stories, and dramatic works. Read his blog TRUTH: In 1000 Words or Less every THURSDAY at www.waitingfortoday.com