Have We Normalized School Shootings

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Are we not exhausted yet?  Two school shootings two days apart.  The same questions . . . What would motivate him to do such a thing?   Were the guns purchased legally?  The constant barrage of whining about sacrificing our rights is just too much.  Here are some different views to help us stop for a moment and consider how we got here.

When there’s skin in the game for all weapons owners including myself I think that people will have a different outlook. – Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo

Let’s start at the place this conversation always begins – the police.  Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said it best when interviewed on Face the Nation.  Chief Acevedo believes that elected officials at both the state and federal level must do more than offer prayers when it comes to protection from gun violence.  He believes the American people, including gun owners, want gun sense, gun reform and keeping guns in the right hands.  He suggested that using the ballot box to take this matter out of the hands of politicians who’ve done nothing is the way to ensure that the will of the American people is actually carried out.  Is that the same as gun control?  Is that an attack on the 2nd Amendment?

Chief Acevedo went on to say that “. . . one of the things that we need to consider is if you have firearms in your home and you do not secure them and you don’t secure them in a manner that can preclude someone from grabbing them and taking them and- and carrying out this carnage that there is a criminal liability that attaches. When there’s skin in the game for all weapons owners including myself I think that people will have a different outlook. And so we’ve got to make sure that everyone stores them in a responsible manner and that there are significant penalties when they fail to do so and people die as a result of those – of that failure.”

But here’s the rub – does the American electorate actually control the ballot box?  Steven Brill, renowned lawyer, journalist and entrepreneur said in Tailspin, his latest book, that a small elite class has high-jacked the democratic system, leaving little opportunity for legislative change.  The politicians we send to Washington to represent our interests do little to address our concerns.  They’re essentially locked into fundraising mode a fair part of every day.  When not on the phone begging for money, they’re collecting checks from lobbyists who have, in fact, become today’s financiers of the democratic process.  “Election reforms meant to enhance democracy”, Brill states, “wound up undercutting democracy.”

Election reforms meant to enhance democracy wound up undercutting democracy. – Steven Brill, author of Tailspin

If Brill’s assessment is correct, it matters not who we send to Washington.  In order to survive in DC politicians must traverse a landscape mapped out by special interest.  The National Rifle Association (NRA) is among the strongest special interests in the capitol.  That leaves little hope for sensible gun reform.

Then there’s Ollie North.  Remember him?  Well, he’s back in the weapons game.  North is the new president of the NRA.  Do we really want North anywhere near weapons again?  In response to the shooting deaths of 10 innocent people in a Sante Fe, Texas school, North seemed quick to reach for the absurd in his attempt to defend the 2nd Amendment.   His explanation – young men prescribed Ritalin, the ADHD medication.  The former marine and National Security Council (NSC) staff member also blamed a culture of violence for what seems like an ever-increasing number of shootings at schools in America.

Ollie North talks about his involvement in the video game Blacks Ops 2

I found no evidence that North had any information that the Texas shooter (or any other shooter) had been prescribed Ritalin.  Furthermore, he once promoted the very violence he now posits as the root of these violent deaths in America.

For those of you too young (or divisive) to make the call on ole Ollie, you only need to know that he was the epicenter of the covert Iran-Contra operation of the 1980s.  The Iran-Contra scandal rocked the Reagan administration.  In that illegal operation, North and the CIA sold weapons to Iran and used the proceeds to arm and support the Nicaraguan Contra rebels.  North was convicted of obstructing Congress (lying) during hearings on the scandal, destroying government documents and accepting an illegal gratuity.  An appeals court overturned the convictions in 1991.

The disease is youngsters who are steeped in a culture of violence.  They have been drugged in many cases. – Oliver North, NRA president

The reality of North’s conviction to that illegal covert operation was the government’s complicity in smuggling cocaine into the United States to aid in funding the Contras.  That complicity allegedly ignited the crack cocaine epidemic in Los Angeles that eventually infected all of America.  Fighting crack cocaine became the cornerstone of the “tough on crime” politics that would begin the cycle of mass incarceration in America.

Who knows where North’s current foray into weapons will lead us.

Soon after the Sante Fe shooting anti-racism activist and educator Tim Wise provided some insight that can possibly close out this discussion.  Wise pointed out that the demographics of this shooting, like most, is 85% white middle to upper middle class.  In thinking through this scourge on American society he looked at the obvious – America’s response.

An offering of prayers and condolences is the usual response from all corners of the country. Wise, however, offered some clarity.  His response seemed more practical when he wrote that “. . . if these things were happening in mostly black and brown spaces everyone would have a theory.  Conservatives would blame ‘cultural pathology’ and liberals would point to structural conditions.”  Wise’s remarks highlighted how American society responds to violence based on demographics.

There is no doubt that the conversation about gun violence always turns to demographics.  There is seldom a conversation about gun violence that doesn’t gravitate to the high rate of deaths in communities of color.  It’s as if ‘white on white’ crime doesn’t exist.  When we see recurring this kind of crime Wise stated, “It’s as if demographics and cultural issues are irrelevant.  Suddenly we revert to individual pathology explanations . . . like mental illness or a response to bullying . . . because we can’t fathom cultural pathology in white affluent communities.”

And finally, let’s end where we should always gravitate – with facts.  When we talk about gun violence on school campuses we tend to think about mass shootings like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Parkland and Sante Fe.  We forget about the shootings in dormitories and at parties on college campuses across the country.  We forget about the accidental discharges or self-inflicted shootings on school campuses.  We seem to focus more on the age of the victims, the number of casualties and the intent of the shooter as a means of gauging the horror of gun violence on school campuses.

We normalize school shootings when we compartmentalize the conversation into these neat little boxes.  The fact is that any shooting on a school campus, regardless of the education level, the shooter’s motivation, the age of the victims or the circumstances surrounding the shooting, is simply one too many.

Data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that an average of 96 Americans are killed by guns each day.  Suicide tops that list with a daily average of 59 deaths by guns.  That’s more than 60 percent of the daily average.  These acts of suicide have nothing to do with the intent of the constitutional framers, the maintenance of a militia to fend off government overreach, background checks, bans on assault weapons or protecting our families.  It’s about people . . . with guns.

Is this a 2nd Amendment issue?  No.  Guns and the resulting violence in America is a health issue and it’s time we begin treating it that way.