Tuesday, October 22, 2013

School Shooting in Sparks, Nevada: A Gory Red, White and Blue Pattern

Once again an ordinary American school day ended in a cacophony of gunfire. Once again all the guns in the world don’t seem to make America's students and teachers safer. Once again the gun lobby will refuse to admit even simple truths.

Well, let me be the first to say, “Good job, N.R.A.”


Unfortunately, the report of yesterday's shooting at Sparks Middle School ought to shock all citizens of this blood-soaked nation.

This time gunfire shattered an ordinary morning on a playground in Sparks, Nevada. Students arriving for school told reporters later that they fled screaming into the building once they realized the “pops” they were hearing were gunshots.
“A kid started getting mad and he pulled out a gun and shoots my friend, one of my friends at least,” a seventh-grade student identified as Andrew told local KOLO-TV. “And then he walked up to a teacher and says back up, the teacher started backing up and he pulled the trigger.”
 “The teacher was just lying there and he was limp, he didn't know what to do, he was just in a lot of pain,” he told KOLO.
 “And me and five other friends went to him and said come on we’ve got to get him to safety. We picked him up, carried him a little bit far and we left him because our vice principal came along and said go, go, go get to safety, get to safety. So we left the teacher there and we went to safety,” Andrew said.

Safety, Andrew said. Where is the safety today? This was the fifteenth school shooting in the United States this year. Two students were wounded. Michael Landsberry, 45, a teacher and former Marine who served in Afghanistan, was killed.

The perpetrator—himself a victim of a national inability to come to grips with gun violence in any way—was 12.

An ABC report noted that an eyewitness described the scene in one word: “chaos.”

Student Thomas Wing said he was walking out of the cafeteria after eating breakfast when he saw a gun.
He told CNN affiliate KOLO that Landsberry was trying to get the student to put the weapon down. After a gunshot, Thomas started running back toward the cafeteria. He heard another shot.
"I was thinking, oh my gosh, am I going to get out of this? Am I going to die?" he told KOLO. "My heart was pounding faster than I could run."


The carnage at Sandy Hook Elementary garnered headlines last December. But the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut was just one of many. It’s all part of a gory red, white and blue pattern. There were ten school shootings in 2010. There were eight school shootings in 2011. In 2012, there were a dozen awful incidents. Forty-two students and teachers were slaughtered. Seventeen were wounded.

This year the killing continues:

A 17-year-old student at Lanier High in Austin, Texas, died earlier this month after he pulled a gun and committed suicide in the school courtyard.

A 15-year-old at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N. C. was shot in the neck by an 18-year-old classmate just as a fire drill ended. Somehow, the victim was not safe even though an armed school resource officer (a policeman assigned to the school) saw the shooting and arrested the gunman almost immediately.

In August bullets flew at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy near Atlanta when a deranged individual carrying an AK-47 opened fire. This time students, faculty and police were probably saved, not by a gun, but by Antoinette Tuff. Tuff, a school secretary, managed to talk the shooter into laying down his weapon.

Six died in a bloodbath at Santa Monica College in June and four others were wounded. The assailant was garbed in black and wearing a ballistic vest. According to police he carried a semi-automatic assault rifle.

The N.R.A. will insist, “We need to arm teachers.” Perhaps they mean we should arm them like Navy Seals, so they’re not outgunned during the next school shooting. There will be a “next.” You can count on that here in one of the most heavily-armed nations on earth.

Just hope your children aren't among the victims.

A student at La Salle High School in Cincinnati, Ohio was critically injured in April after he pulled out a pistol during first period and shot himself.

A former University of Central Florida student died by his own hand in March, after apparently planning a Virginia Tech-style mass shooting. He first pulled a dormitory fire alarm, probably hoping to lure more victims into the open. His plan was disrupted when a roommate stumbled upon him in their room. The gunman pointed a weapon and his roommate fled and dialed 911. The gunman was found dead soon after, lying next to “an assault weapon, a couple hundred rounds of ammunition and four homemade bombs in a backpack.”

January 2013 was a particularly gory month. There were eight incidents. On the 31st classes at Price Middle School in Atlanta were broken up by gunfire when a classmate shot a 14-year-old in the head. A teacher was injured and once more a school resource officer managed to disarm the assailant.

Two days earlier a 60-year-old Alabama man with mental problems boarded a school bus and shot and killed the driver. He then took a 6-year-old hostage and held the child for several days in an underground bunker.

Students at Lone Star College in Houston found themselves hiding in closets when a fight on campus ended with bullets flying. The campus was locked down, and three students were wounded, before police could take two individuals into custody.

Tyrone Lawson, 17, of Chicago, wasn’t safe when both his life and a high school basketball game he was attending were ended. In the parking lot, after the final buzzer, he was hit by multiple gunshots. And this, despite what school officials termed “a significant security presence both inside and outside the gym.” His mother remembered sadly: "He asked if he could go to the game. I gave him the money to go to the game, and [by] 9:30, my son was dead."

Another shooting occurred in the parking lot at Hazard Community and Technical College in Hazard, Kentucky. Three died, including a 12-year-old girl.

After a regular basketball game ended at Detroit’s Osborn High, a pickup game on a nearby court led to an altercation. A pistol was fired and a 16-year-old collapsed to the asphalt, badly wounded.

A dispute over financial aid ended in yet another school shooting. A student opened fire at the Stevens Institute of Business and Arts, striking a faculty adviser in the chest. When police approached in a stairwell he turned the gun on himself.

Finally, Ryan Heber—an unarmed teacher in Bakersfield, California—managed to convince a 16-year-old student to put down a shotgun. But not before the boy badly wounded a classmate, fired at and missed another, and not till Heber was hit in the head by a ricocheting pellet. According to reporters one terrified student called her parents from inside a locked closet. Another told her parents “she saw a classmate on the floor in a pool of blood.”


Still, the N.R.A. isn’t worried. And gun manufacturers continue to enjoy record sales. In 2012, the FBI ran 16.8 million background checks on gun purchasers. In the first six months of 2013 the pace only accelerated. Federal authorities ran 11.4 million additional background checks during that period.

At this rate, perhaps safety will finally be achieved when every American is armed to the teeth.

Then, perhaps, school children and teachers will be safe at their desks. That is: unless a classmate or some crazed individual happens to be planning to open fire.


On the same day as the Sparks shooting the New York Times ran another editorial citing the mediocrity of this nation's teachers as a major problem in education. 

I will comment on this tomorrow.

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