Opinion: How much longer will we choose to endure mass shootings?
From Columbine to Robb Elementary, the list of mass murders, many at schools, seems endless. America must set aside political differences and confront this national defect head on.
Tuesday evening the breaking news banner on CNN crossed the television screen as Wolf Blitzer, the cable network’s celebrated anchor, opened his newscast with news of yet another school shooting, and with this somber proclamation: “This is the saddest part of modern American life.”
We have written this editorial too many times before. Each time becomes more heartbreaking, more sickening and more devoid of meaningful answers. Shootings happen throughout the world, but nowhere near the frequency with which they plague America.
From Columbine to Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech and Marjory Stoneman Douglas and many other schools. From places of worship in Ohio to South Carolina and Texas. A nightclub in Orlando, Florida. An outdoor concert in Nevada. Shopping centers in El Paso and a King Soopers in Boulder, Colorado. A movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. A restaurant and bar in Dayton. The list of mass shootings involving multiple deaths and injuries in places from coast to coast in the United States is not just never-ending, it’s constant.
Indiscriminate mass killings are the worst of public tragedies. They not only shatter lives and rob people of loved ones in an instant, they make everyone, everywhere feel vulnerable. If it could happen in a small town in Texas, it could happen anywhere.
But the indiscriminate mass murder of children is in a separate class of unspeakable horror. Children, with their boundless energy, zest for life and endless potential, demand society’s utmost care and protection. Those who were killed Tuesday were undoubtedly excited about the school year ending on Thursday and the carefree days of summer ahead. Like all children, they had dreams and hopes. No one has the right to deprive them of their futures.
As of this writing, 19 children and two adults were reported dead from the Robb Elementary shooting.
Consider the following: In a single weekend there were nine mass shootings, prompting the mayor of Miami Beach, where two shootings occurred, to proclaim: “We can’t endure this anymore, we just simply can’t.”
That was at the end of March — weeks before Tuesday’s shooting. In Texas, the alleged shooter was also reported dead, shot by police. He was 18, the same age as the man who police say killed 10 people in Buffalo at a supermarket. That was a week ago. The nation’s collective horror back in spring has done nothing to stop what is occurring today.
In Buffalo the motivation appears to have been racial hatred. The motivation of the Robb Elementary shooter is, as yet, unknown. More important than motive, however, is an understanding of how they obtained those motives, followed by preventative measures to guard against future killings.
Four years ago, thousands of high school students in Utah and elsewhere marched in hopes of starting a movement that would bring greater safety to schools after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen died in that shooting, and 17 more were injured. The alleged shooter was 19. Jury selection is now underway in his court case; these tragedies linger for victims and their families long after the tragic events occur.
Four years ago students demanded change. As we said at the time, the march was a “moment,” and Americans are good at those, but less adept at turning them into “movements.”
It’s hard to imagine any civilized society witnessing the mass murder of children in peaceful settings, over and over again, and not using all its resources and all its energies to confront the problem.
The nation needs to lay politics and partisan prejudice aside and hold honest discussions about gun laws, gun safety, background checks, mental health, school security, law enforcement and coordination among agencies. It also needs to determine what divides us.
It needs to dive deeper into the culture to discuss violence in media, bullying on social media, racism in all its forms and in all institutions, domestic violence, the breakdown of families, the absence of fathers in too many homes, teen anxiety, depression and other mental health issues, and the weakening of institutions from churches to civic groups.
Does it seem overwhelming? This nation has the resources to systematically find answers. It has the time, talent and money to compassionately render assistance to those who most need it. It seems now to be only a matter of will.
America cannot continue on this path. It cannot allow mass killings to continue as commonplace occurrences. We owe that much to the dead and grieving.
We mourn with them today, with all those in the small Texas town of Uvalde. And we echo that which was uttered by that grieving mayor of Miami: “We can’t endure this anymore, we just simply can’t.”