I often find writing these columns therapeutic. If
there’s a topic I feel strongly about, researching and writing a
summary of what I’ve learned for LoCO is usually a calming
exercise. So when my wife, Louisa Rogers, expressed her sense of
helplessness when she heard about the March 27 Covenant School
shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, I invited her to write a guest
column. This is the result.
I’m writing this on March 29, two days after waking up to the news of yet another mass shooting, in Nashville – one that felt more personal to me because two close friends of mine live in Tennessee, and because my grandmother grew up there.
Forty-eight hours later, the news has moved on. Today’s headline was about Trump’s indictment. Well, fair enough – that is big news. But since I, for one, am not done, here are some inchoate, chaotic reflections – much like mass shootings themselves.
I simply cannot imagine what it’s like to raise children in the U.S. today. Of course, mass shooters are indiscriminate in their choice of targets – shopping centers, churches and synagogues, bars, downtown streets, you name it. Any of us could be dead in an instant.
But schools seem to be a particular favorite of theirs. At least 560 children, educators, and school staff have been victims of school shootings since 1999, while more than 348,000 students have experienced gun violence at school.
I was shocked to read in The Washington Post that the median age of a school shooter is 16. Children are responsible for more than half the country’s school shootings, which of course wouldn’t be possible if they didn’t have access to firearms.
As of 2020, gun violence surpassed car accidents as the leading cause of death in children. If I were a parent, I think I’d want to get the hell out of the country.
Indeed, many Americans, parents and otherwise, are moving abroad – some to Mexico, my second home. At this point, gangs of narcotraficos with specific targets don’t seem like a big deal compared to young men walking into schools, grocery stores and movie theaters to randomly mow down whoever’s around, using combat weapons better suited for warfare.
The L.A. teachers’ union recently went on a three-day strike for higher salaries. The entire school system shut down, with parental support. Using that as a model, I’d like every teacher and college professor to go on a nationwide strike protesting government inaction in passing and enforcing gun regulation. Every time there’s a mass shooting, they should go on strike, until the government is forced to pass common-sense legislation.
I believe most parents would back the teachers against the corrupt government officials who lack the backbone to protect children’s and teachers’ safety.
In his article, “A Smarter Way to Reduce Gun Deaths,” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof describes the steps required for a person to adopt a dog in the state of Mississippi:
- Fill out a 64-question application
- If renting, the landlord is contacted
- Have family members meet the dog in person
- Create yard fencing and security
- Schedule a sleepover visit with the dog
- Pay the $125 adoption fee
- Adopt the dog
And if they want to buy a firearm from a gun store?
- Pass a 13-question background check
- Buy a gun
Even less is required if they purchase a gun from another individual. All they have to do is not appear to be underage or drunk.
I just plain don’t get extreme right-wingers. I know, they don’t get me, either. But they seem terrified of any change. Safe storage, red flag laws, background checks, waiting periods, ghost guns, you name it, they resist. What are they so scared of that they can’t move an inch? Afraid they’ll lose the whole war for the battle?
Perhaps people harmed by gun violence should have the right to sue gun sellers. Strict liability should be mandatory for buyers, owners and users, along with licensing and education.
Massachusetts, which, after Hawaii, has the second lowest gun mortality rates in the country (3.7 per 100,000, compared with, for instance, 28.6 in Mississippi) is an exception. A gun buyer must first pay $100 for a license, be fingerprinted, undergo a background check and explain why he or she wants a gun. If the permit is granted, which takes a few weeks, only then can the person buy the firearm. Afterwards, they must store it safely and report if it is stolen.
I’m just singing with the birds, I know. Being an unlikely optimist, I still trust the U.S. will eventually get its act together. But however tragic these killings are, I sense we’re nowhere near bottom. Wonderful individuals exist in our country, but many of us still vote for politicians who are too angry, vengeful, corrupt, passive, and just plain pathetic to give enough of a shit to take action.