The Washington Post ~ "A shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, CT, on Friday morning killed 27 people, including 20 children, law enforcement sources said. The dead at Sandy Hook Elementary, about 60 miles northeast of New York City, included the suspected gunman. One other person was injured. Police said the shootings were carried out in two rooms, located in the same section of the school. They said 18 of the children died at the scene, and two more died after being taken to hospitals." The Post article includes video of President Obama's news conference addressing the killings.
This is the second mass shooting to take place in the U.S. this week, and the eighth in 2012. According to journalist and blogger Aviva Shen, "The rate of people killed by guns in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher than similar high-income countries in the world. In the 30 years since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders."
Shen's article is titled A Timeline of Mass Shootings in the U.S. since Columbine, a reference to the 1999 Columbine (Colorado) High School massacre. Here is a summary of that timeline, working back from the present ~
- 2012, December 14 ~ Newtown, CT. 27 people dead, 1 wounded
- 2012, December 11 ~ Clackamas, OR. 3 people dead
- 2012, September 27 ~ Minneapolis, MN. 6 people dead, 3 wounded
- 2012, August 5 ~ Oak Creek, WI. 7 people dead, 4 wounded.
- 2012, July 20 ~ Aurora, CO. 12 people dead, 58 wounded
- 2012, May 29 ~ Seattle, WA. 6 people dead
- 2012, April 6 ~ Tulsa, OK. 3 people dead, 2 wounded
- 2012, April 2 ~ Oakland, CA. 7 people dead
- 2011, October 14 ~ Seal Beach, CA. 8 people dead
- 2011, September 6 ~ Carson City, NV. 5 people dead, 7 wounded
- 2011, January 8 ~ Tucson, AZ. 6 people dead, 13 wounded
- 2010, August 3 ~ Manchester, CT. 9 people dead, 2 wounded
- 2009, November 5 ~ Fort Hood, TX. 14 dead, 29 wounded
- 2009, April 3 ~ Binghamton, NY. 13 people dead, 4 wounded
- 2009, March 29 ~ Carthage, NC. 8 people dead
- 2008, February 14 ~ Northern Illinois University, IL. 7 people dead, 21 wounded
- 2008, February 7 ~ Kirkwood, MO. 6 people dead, 2 wounded.
- 2007, December 5 ~ Omaha, NE. 10 people dead, 4 wounded
- 2007, April 16 ~ Virginia Tech, VA. 32 people dead, 24 wounded
- 2006, October 2 ~ Lancaster, PA. 6 people dead, 6 wounded
- 2006, March 25 ~ Seattle, WA. 7 people dead, 2 wounded
- 2005, March 21 ~ Red Lake, MN. 10 people dead, 5 wounded
- 2005, March 12 ~ Brookfield, WI. 10 people dead, 4 wounded
- 2003, July 8 ~ Meridian, MI. 7 people dead, 7 wounded
- 1999, September 15 ~ Fort Worth, TX. 8 people dead, 7 wounded
- 1999, July 29 ~ Atlanta, GA. 13 people dead, 13 wounded
- 1999, April 29 ~ Littleton, CO. 13 people dead, 21 wounded
Psychologically, when one reads down a list like this, one's senses dull and it just becomes places and numbers. But each number represents a life shattered, a family torn by grief, a community in shock .... and a nation which must once again confront its policies toward gun ownership, especially ownership of semi-automatic, military-style weapons.
In 1994 Congress passed and President Clinton signed into law the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, largely in response to mass violence involving weapons with a high volume of fire. The ban expired in 2004, and repeated attempts to renew the ban have failed in a Congress controlled by NRA-funded conservatives.
The list above does not include any of the thousands of single homicides or suicides carried out with guns each year. Each life is precious. I do not advocate criminalizing private ownership of firearms. I myself have a state-issued concealed-carry permit for my Glock .45, which I rarely use. I do, however, support renewal of the assault weapons ban, as well as much stricter laws for buying and using firearms. We require passing a test in order to obtain a license to legally drive a car ~ why not do at least as much with guns?
I grew up in the gun culture of the rural American West. Young people (mostly boys) attended hunter safety classes, and understood the risks and responsibilities of handling a firearm. That understanding was reinforced in the military. But times have changed. With the burgeoning influence of gun lobbyists (the NRA and firearms manufacturers) on Capitol Hill, easy access to an ever-more-sophisticated arsenal has meant more and more guns in private hands (in the U.S. there are 89 firearms per 100 residents), usually with only the most cursory of background checks. We need desperately to rethink that.
I learned graphically in Vietnam that in a landscape where everyone has a gun, people get killed by simple accident. Others lose their lives in the anger of an argument. And that doesn't even touch the deaths inflicted by military combat. Do we really want our children to grow up in a war zone ~ or to die in one?