Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Another School Shooting in America: The Blood is always the Same

When will the gunfire end?

There was another school shooting yesterday. This time the blood spilled out on the floor of a high school in Troutdale, Oregon. We have now had so many school shootings—74 since the Sandy Hook massacre—that it can be hard to keep track. And that doesn’t count planned shootings that were thwarted. According to authorities a San Antonio teen recently managed to sneak an AK-47 into his high school with “intent to commit a violent act.” His plan was foiled when parents noticed the weapon was missing and notified police.

Certain aspects of all these stories are the same. The blood is the same. The sorrow of families who lose loved ones is the same. The shock of survivors who can’t believe it happened is the same.

The reaction of the N.R.A. is also the same. “Guns don’t kill people,” Wayne LaPierre will insist. That’s true. They just help people kill people.

In an emotional speech yesterday, President Obama said, “We’re the only developed country on earth where this happens.”

That’s also true. You can pick from dozens of stories. In April an Indiana man shot and killed his wife in the parking lot at a Catholic school in Griffith, Indiana. The couple’s two children watched. The blood was the same—although you could argue that this shooting doesn’t “count” because it happened outside a school and not inside.

But the blood was the same.

Only the details differ. Remenard Castro, the husband, had a history of violence. He once threatened to beat his wife with a crowbar.

In Oregon yesterday, the assailant carried a rifle into the school. Once inside he gunned down a 14-year-old student. A gym teacher was also wounded in the hip. Then the shooter retreated to a bathroom where he committed suicide.

The blood was the same.

The sentiment of the Police Chief, Scott Anderson, was the same. Anderson told reporters later: "I'm very, very sorry for the family and for all the students and everyone who will be impacted by this tragic incident."

The story was the same. It happened in America. It didn’t happen in Japan or Germany or Canada. It happened here.

The blood was the same last October in Sparks, Nevada. There a middle school student shot and killed one teacher and wounded two classmates. Michael Landsberry, the teacher, “probably saved lives” when he approached the shooter on the playground. Landsberry had served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. So he knew the power of guns in this situation. Guns don’t kill people. That’s true. But a 12-year-old doesn’t kill Landsberry either.

Not without a gun.

The blood was the same. Only the details differ. In an interview with CNN, one of the wounded saw his classmate—the shooter—approaching. “Please don't shoot me,” the boy begged, “please don't shoot me. I looked at him. I saw [the gun], and he braced it and shot me in the stomach me.” 

The blood is always the same. It’s thick and red and dries fast in the halls and classrooms and on the clothes of the dead and wounded. Only the details differ. We know twenty-six teachers and children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary. But did you realize in one classroom where fourteen children and one teacher died there was one survivor? A six-year-old girl rose from among the bodies when police arrived. The blood was the same. Only the trauma of that child was different. Think of the nightmares to come for that first grader.

Guns don’t kill people. That’s true. But without his mother’s Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, Adam Lanza, the shooter at Sandy Hook doesn’t kill 26 people either. He doesn’t have the chance to spray a classroom with a semi-automatic weapon.

Guns only make it easy for people to kill people.

In the wake of yesterday’s shooting, the reaction of the N.R.A will be the same. Wayne LaPierre will insist: you can kill people with crowbars and knives. You can kill them with cars. You can kill them with a frozen loaf of zucchini bread it you want to. That’s true. But it gets harder.

The blood is the same. It was the same when Colleen Ritzer was murdered in a women’s bathroom at her school in Danvers, Massachusetts this past January. In that case the 14-year-old accused in the crime was armed with a knife. First he raped the 24-year-old math teacher. Then he cut her throat and went to the movies.

The blood was the same. And sure: knives don’t kill people. People with knives kill people. But for mass slaughter guns are way better.

Since the shooting at Sandy Hook there have been 74 incidents involving gunfire in our schools. You can read about the LaSalle High School (Cincinnati, Ohio) student who brought a gun from home, carried it into a classroom and committed suicide. You can study up on the Arapahoe High School shooting in Colorado. There the 17-year-old killer shot Claire Davis, a classmate, in the head. 

Davis died later.

Claire Davis: the sorrow is the same.

The sorrow is always the same. The shock is always the same. The blood always dries the same. And it seems it is quickly forgotten.

You can take your pick. You can read about the killer who kept a journal and expressed admiration for the murderers at Columbine High and Virginia Tech. He killed or wounded three students at a Seattle college just last week. Don’t get confused, though. Don’t get mixed up trying to remember if this was different from the shootings at other colleges—other high schools—other elementary schools. You can check out the list if you want to. It makes for sad reading.

The blood is always the same.

What else is the same? Members of Congress, says President Obama, “are terrified of the N.R.A.” That’s true. The N.R.A. will claim again that any attempt to register guns—or do anything about the problem is a direct assault on the Second Amendment. The crazy people will say President Obama is planning to take away all their guns. It hasn’t happened yet. It’s just going to happen. And soon! Last year 21.1 million guns were sold in this country. That topped the record of 19.6 million set the year before. (Records have been falling annually. See chart below.)



Meanwhile, the story is always the same. The blood is the same. The shootings happen in America. Guns don’t kill people. They don’t.

In this country, however, they make it ridiculously easy. And any attempt to do anything about it will be met with fury by “gun absolutists” on the right.

Next week or next fall when schools reopen the story will be the same. There will be more school shootings in America.

The blood will be the same. Thick. Red. Drying quickly.

Perhaps it’s time for a change.

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