UPDATE—another student wounded in the Ohio school shooting has died, bringing to three the number of fatalities in the attack by a teen who opened fire in the cafeteria of a suburban Cleveland high school yesterday. The suspect has been identified as T.J. Lane; he is expected to appear in juvenile court today. Changes have been made throughout this story.
By NICK CHILES
An Ohio high school student packing heat gunned down five classmates yesterday. Yet another day in America when a child woke up, crawled out of bed, slipped on his backpack to make his way to school—and never came home, gunned down in the corridors of another school building by a crazed adolescent.
In Chardon, Ohio, so far three students have died and three others remain in the hospital. The shooter, T.J. Lane, is in custody. Officials have yet to discern a point to the shooting. But does it even matter? Is there any point that will make sense? I just can’t stop shaking my head at the tragic ridiculousness of America and our passionate love of guns. And as with all of our passions, of course we pass it along to our kids.
As I was reading coverage of the shooting in the New York Times yesterday, I stumbled upon a fascinating Times graphic listing every major school-related shooting to occur in the United States. A few points jumped out at me: In the 65 years from 1927 to 1992, there were just three major shootings. But in the 15 years from 1997 to 2012, there were 13 major shootings, including yesterday’s in Ohio. That comes out to almost one per year. There is a deep problem here.
Of course the gun advocates will come out in force to attack anyone who suggests that America’s love of guns is anything but wholesome and healthy—you know, the quintessence of America. After all, guns don’t kill, people do.
But I have a hard time buying the gun lobby’s bull when I have witnessed yet another chaotic scene at an American school, in a sleepy little town of 5,000 people in Ohio, where another unhinged young man got his hands on a weapon of mass destruction and turned some school slight or insult into an theater of death and tragedy. If this kid lived in a house or neighborhood or town where guns weren’t plentiful, where background checks and major forms of ID and waiting periods were required before you could possess a gun, I’m guessing that three kids would not be dead, nor his classmates lying in an Ohio hospital. Maybe he’d have said something mean about them on Facebook or took a can of spray paint and scrawled a few choice curse words outside the gym.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that pretty much ALL of these shootings have occured in middle and southern America, where gun ownership is a right as sacred as Sunday morning church services. These are the places where children from an early age know how to easily get their hands on a gun—because often the guns are stashed in their own homes. Of the 16 school shootings listed in the Times, the closest thing to urban America was Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Feb. 2008: A student walks into a classroom at Louisiana Technical College and opens fire, shooting two fellow students to death, and then commits suicide.)
Three more homes are shattered today in Ohio. Three more children never returned from school. With an average of nearly one major school shooting in America per year, one thing we can say with certainty is that sometime over the next 12 to 18 months, there will be another tragedy at a school somewhere in America. Probably in a place where people fight real hard for the right to own and carry their guns. Does this sound like where you live? Maybe it will be in your town.
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I understand the point you’re trying to make. But you’re ignoring Columbine. Littleton Co is a suburb of Denver, as of 2009 the 16th largest MSA. I would call that a whole lot closer to urban than Baton Rouge LA.
I’m not going to take the NRA’s side on this one. I will however say that there’s been a big change in how we parent over the last 20 years or so. A lot of parents don’t teach their children how to handle disappointment, emotional hurts, failures. They teach their children that they are entitled instead of how to deal with life. I think that is a larger part of what’s happening in our country. Yes, we need to control access to guns especially for children, but we also need to teach them to cope.
Teasing and bullying isn’t new. But in the last 15 years, kids have a found a new and scarier way to deal with it. At least part of that falls to us. We need to teach our kids and their friends that violence isn’t the answer.
The real answer to this issue starts at home.
Dawnmarie, I was going to say much the same thing. I grew up with firearms in my home because my father is a federal agent. There was no fascination. None of my neighborhood friends were interested in them either beyond the initial, “ask your dad if I can see it.”
If the news reports are correct, this boy posted a long Facebook rant that ended with something like, “die all of you.” THAT is incredibly disturbing. It’s sad he had no one in his life looking over his shoulder monitoring what he was posting and talking to him about what may have been happening in his life.
Yep, bullying isn’t new. The idea to take one of my father’s guns to school after some kid called me the N word NEVER crossed my mind because I wasn’t raised like that and my relationship with my parents was such that I knew I could go to them when I had problems at school.
My heart goes out to everyone in that town.
I’m an Ohioan, long a resident of Singapore, and before that, of Japan. I teach in a local university. When I see headlines such as this, I too can only shake my head. In Singapore, there are virtually NO gun deaths a year even in the population at large. In fact, I have never ever read of one. Of course, guns are illegal, and the population is just under 6 million. In Japan, with a population of 130 million, the same is true—almost no gun deaths in a given year.
What makes us Americans unique in this regard? The out-dated idea that you can combine lax gun laws with peace and well-being. School shootings have become a norm, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg of gun violence.