By Don Robison
Suarez International Tier 1 Staff Instructor
As I sit down to write this I still have the recent tragedy fresh in my mind as I’m sure everyone reading this does as well. I’m not writing this to inflame anyone, although I’m sure it will. That’s fine and I accept that sometimes it’s necessary to break a few eggs if one wants to make an omelet. The last four days I’ve read literally thousands of pages of various news articles, social media and print articles asking the question of why school shootings are suddenly happening. I have even read articles written about how banning assault weapons will fix “the problem”.
Let’s start with some facts. School shootings are not a new or a recent phenomenon. The first school shooting reported in the United States was in 1764 and resulted in the school teacher and 9-10 students being killed. Since the first one in 1764 there were ten school shooting between 1853 and 1889, twenty one between 1902 and 1937, twelve between 1940 and 1949, twenty in the 1950’s, twelve in the 1960’s, thirteen in the 1970’s, twenty in the 1980’s, twenty in the 1990’s, seventeen in the 2000’s and in the 2010’s we are currently at seven. Not to make light of or to diminish the pain the affected family suffer, but violence and evil is nothing new. The reality is that when looked at by decade the amounts of shootings have stayed fairly steady with a slight increase since 1970.
As you can see it’s not new and it’s not going away. Some of these have taken place in areas of the country that have very aggressive gun control laws such as Illinois, New Jersey, New York, California and most recently Connecticut. From 1994 until 2004 when the entire United States was subject to an assault weapon ban which also limited all magazines for both pistols and rifles to 10 rounds there were twenty-seven school shootings in the United States.
What is the answer? I don’t know that I have that answer, but I have some ideas about how we got here. Let’s start by looking at what has changed in the United States particularly since the 1970’s. In my opinion a strict moral code has been in decline since at least the 1970s. We now have kids who don’t know the difference between right and wrong or they may know the difference but are indifferent towards it. They aren’t taught how to control their impulses of anger, angst or dissatisfaction. They are taught that acting out has no consequences. I see it all the time while shopping. In the 70s and 80s when I was in school kids weren’t medicated and given a piece of paper to use as an excuse for their behavior. They were taught to control their emotions and impulses or the kids in their class dispensed some medication on the playground. Now before you get your panties in a wad; yes I know there is mental illness out there and I know first-hand what it can do to a family. My point is that from talking with medical professionals and through my own observation there are certain things that are over diagnosed in order to let parents feel like their doctor is doing something and to let the parents feel good about being less than stellar parents. If their child has a piece of paper and medication his actions aren’t his fault or theirs; it’s because he has (insert affliction). Which brings me to what in my opinion is the root of the problem we face in the United States today: personal responsibility. Yes personal responsibility for one’s actions and the actions of those in your care will solve many of problems we encounter. Teach your kids to be responsible and how to control their emotions. It’s not easy, but nothing worthwhile is ever easy. I’ve raised two girls and have four grand kids so I’m speaking from experience. Not every kid is a future Albert Einstein or Louie Pasteur. Some of them are destined to be future Jeffery Dahmers and Albert Desalvos. When you realize this don’t turn a blind eye and hope it will go away. Take some responsibility and get them the help they need even if it hurts. Is it more embarrassing to be related to someone being treated for mental health issues or a mass murderer? I’ll catch flack for this but how about we fix the mental health system. When I was growing up we had news three times a day at noon, 6P.M., and 11P.M. With the advent of 24/7/365 news stations 32 years ago we also saw something were weren't used to seeing; 24 hour access to news. Gone were the days of 30 minutes news broadcast where producers had to decide what was newsworthy. As more 24 hour stations came verifying facts and deciding what would go on the air took a back seat to filling 24 hours of air time. It's led to sensationalizing even the most mundane event. I'm not saying that school shootings are mundane, but how many car chases did you see for 60 minutes on the news during the 70's? I've seen news organizations in the past seven days demand gun owner's be held responsible for the actions of someone they have never met nor do they empathize with what he has done. I don't often listen to talk radio, but did on Monday. What I heard was an internationally recognized radio host appoligize for repeating on air what he was seeing on the national news networks on Friday. Everything he had repeated, all 90 minutes of air time, was proven false by Monday morning. How about news organizations start being held accountable for what they are putting on the air.
The common denominator with the majority of modern day school shooters seems to be some form of diagnosed mental illness or incapacity. It also appears that they target areas that are “gun free zones” where they know they are reasonably assured they won’t encounter resistance for their acting out. When they meet resistance from either law enforcement or a civilian with a gun such as the school principal in Pearl, Mississippi they either give up or end their own life. Why? Because they are cowards who can only act against unarmed opponents. It makes sense to me to eliminate gun free zones and allow people to engage these shooters without fear of being prosecuted. It also makes sense to me that if I were a minimally trained CCW holder I would seek out professional training and practice regularly in the event the unthinkable happens in your presence. It shouldn’t be viewed as a social stigma to be well trained it should be viewed as an obligation to be well trained.
Earlier I mentioned that during the assault weapon ban era that there were 27 school shootings. I say that that gives credence to the claim that bans don’t work. There has been something that has been shown to work though. In 2008 a federal program was funded to help schools place officers in schools; this program was unfunded in 2011. During the three years the program was in place there were two school shootings and one of those was in the first two months of the program before it was fully implemented. Since the program was unfunded there have been seven shootings in the first full year since its end. I believe law enforcement calls that a clue. Let me say that again in case you missed it; during the ten years of assault weapon ban there were 27 school shootings, during the three years of officers in schools there were two school shootings.
In closing; no, evil can’t be legislated away any more than it can be wished away. Tragedies happen and the best way to limit them is by getting involved, taking responsibility for your actions, holding others responsible for their actions and not turning a blind eye to someone or something you think may be a problem in the future.