Columbine happened before my first birthday. In my 19 years of schooling since, there have been 208 more school shootings.
The first one I remember clearly was Sandy Hook - I was in the seventh grade. I remember walking into school each day that week, the only thought on my mind was that maybe today would be the day.
I think that school shootings are among the most horrific tragedies that this world experiences. I think that everyone can agree. Considering our almost unanimous consensus, it is absurd that nothing has been done. The fault, of course, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves. If we were serious about ending this mass homicide, we would put aside political differences and talk about the only thing that matters: our children’s safety.
After every major shooting, the public cries out, and there is a massive push for new gun control legislation. While many are quick to criticize Congress for intransigence over gun control legislation, I have to ask, why are we talking about gun control in the first place? Gun control and mass shootings are certainly related issues, but they are not the same.
“Common Sense” gun control legislation will not end school shootings. It does not abolish firearms. It does not prevent people from owning weapons, it does not prevent people from carrying those weapons, and it will not save our children. Instead of ending school shootings, common sense gun control would, at best, lessen the effect of school shootings by degrees. How different is the heartache of a child lost to a handgun from the anguish of one slain by an assault rifle? If we common sense gun control laws were miraculously all passed tomorrow, would we celebrate the fact that the next school shooting was only 6 dead kids? Or that some of our screens were successful so we only had 6 school shootings this year instead of ten? Common sense only gets us so far.
If common sense gun control won’t solve the problem, why have we been talking about it for so long? At the risk of oversimplifying, I would say that the liberal answer is probably that this is the first step towards more stringent legislation that could solve the problem in the future, and the conservative answer is probably that liberals are pushing a gun control agenda through the lens of ending school shootings. Honestly, though, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where you stand on common sense control because it isn’t going to do anything. If you are liberal and think we could end school shootings by abolishing guns, you might be right, but you’re also wasting your time. If you are a conservative who puts their foot down after every school shooting about your right to own a gun, you are absolutely right, but you’re also missing the point. We are afflicted by an epidemic of homicide; nothing else matters.
Let’s end school shootings, and let’s do it together. The best way to protect our children is to have safer schools. As any breathing high school student delinquent will tell you, it is absurdly easy to enter and exit American public schools. They are poorly supervised, they are incredibly easy to enter and exit, and, if they even have any on-campus police presence, those officers are prepared to do little else than harass kids smoking weed. For the idealists among us who say that this solution is too simple and does nothing to affect more causal problems like mental health care in the United States, your criticism is well taken. I would like to see more sweeping changes too, but my primary concern is with children. Once we stop the bleeding, let’s talk about the bigger issues, but not before. If we keep wasting our time having the same arguments over and over again, we’re going to keep waking up and seeing the carnage on the news, wondering how we missed the forest for the trees.