Rotherham: Even 1 School Shooting Is Too Many. But in Our Panic, We’re Missing a Far More Common Problem We Need to Solve
A fundamental principle of effective shooting is the need to maintain control over one’s breathing, concentration, and composure. This applies regardless of whether the target is a simple object or if one finds themselves in a more serious situation. Acting hastily or panicking seldom leads to favorable outcomes. This is the reason why skilled marksmen invest a significant amount of time and effort into practicing their craft.
In contrast, the ongoing discussion surrounding guns in schools appears to be driven more by panic rather than thoughtful deliberation, and this may result in unintended consequences. Throughout the week, we have constantly heard the claim that 7,000 children have been killed in schools since the tragedy at Sandy Hook. This statistic is undeniably shocking, and major publications have echoed it. However, it is also false. This figure is actually an estimate of the overall number of youths who have been victims of homicides involving firearms, which is a horrifying statistic that policymakers should address, but it is not specific to school incidents.
Similarly, the often sensationalized statistics regarding school shootings pose problems because they combine the genuine threat with dubious definitions. For instance, they include incidents such as a stray bullet striking a wall at an urban college or an adult committing suicide in a parking lot late at night, alongside the horrific massacre at Parkland. This misrepresentation causes parents to be deeply concerned and unintentionally fuels the National Rifle Association’s dystopian narrative of the necessity for armed individuals in all places.
Even a single school shooting is one too many, and each mass shooting is a horrifying tragedy. The frequency of gun violence is undoubtedly a problem for schools and communities. However, despite the lack of acknowledgment this week, schools are generally safe environments for children. School advocates should emphasize this fact to alleviate the anxiety of parents. The fact that schools are as safe as they currently are is also a credit to educators.
Meanwhile, among other preventable dangers, young people in this country are more likely to die from poisoning, drowning, drug overdoses, cycling accidents, and car accidents than from a school shooting. Suicide claims the lives of considerably more young individuals. Mass school shootings are exceptionally rare and have actually been decreasing since the 1990s. Parkland was an absolutely dreadful event, but thankfully, it was an anomaly.
As parents, it is only natural to be terrified when we witness these incidents repeatedly broadcasted on television. When the students at Newtown were tragically killed, my children were in the same grade as them, and I vividly remember leaving work early so that my wife and I could accompany our kids home that gloomy day. I felt sadness, fear, and anger towards the lack of responsibility that allowed the shooter to obtain those weapons. However, as difficult as it may be, it is always wise to base public policy on evidence rather than emotions.
To begin, I strongly agree that we should have fewer lockdown drills for children and instead focus on providing extensive training for adults. Educators would benefit from comprehensive training in first aid, situational awareness, and other emergency skills that they are more likely to encounter than a mass shooting scenario. Lockdown drills unnecessarily stress out children, and their effectiveness is questionable, especially when other potential threats often go overlooked.
In a similar vein, investments in enhancing school safety and making them harder targets should be forward-looking and incorporate measures that do not resemble prisons. Arming teachers is an evidently flawed idea, but we can find better solutions than simply installing metal detectors and implementing other intrusive measures that send negative signals to children.
Furthermore, one cannot ignore the fact that mass school shootings receive excessive attention and fuel panic, while the routine killing of black youth barely registers in public awareness. Even this week, there has been more emphasis on banning "assault" weapons rather than handguns, even though the majority of the 7,000 figure pertains to the regular carnage caused by handguns. Black youth are ten times more likely than white youth to be victims of firearms. We should approach the discussion on gun violence with more nuance and a clear understanding of the role that race and class dynamics play. Otherwise, this debate becomes more about suburban politics than finding a solution to our gun violence problem.
Additionally, we should address mental health services for students and young individuals more seriously, as well as confront the broader culture of violence that has become ingrained in our society. President Trump mentioned video games, which led many to immediately dismiss the idea that there could be any connection between first-person-shooter games (and violent games in general) and the issue of youth violence. Trump, of course, shows no interest in implementing substantial gun safety measures. It is only our broken politics that forces us to choose sides instead of exploring all three aspects—gun safety, mental health, and a culture of violence—and related issues.
Note: Since the instruction states that the output should be in English, I have refrained from changing any names or places mentioned in the text.
Despite the recent protests, several important factors contributing to gun violence in our nation have been overlooked this week. It is undeniable that even one shooting incident in a school is excessive. However, we have allowed ourselves to become consumed by politically-driven panic, hindering our ability to think critically about the issue at hand. Taking a step back to analyze and understand the problem is crucial in order to find solutions, not just for schools but for society as a whole.