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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Another Bloody Week

The Continuing Tragedy Of Guns In America

At this point what is there left to say about guns in America? Guns make us safer? Guns don’t? The Second Amendment is sacred? No, it’s not? 

Guns in America: another child dies.

Here’s one adamantine fact. Thursday afternoon, a little girl in Michigan found a rifle under the bed at her grandfather’s house. Curious, as four-year-olds are, she pulled the gun out. What happened next is unclear. We know that somehow she pulled the trigger and her four-year-old cousin is dead. 

Accidents happen, National Rifle Association leaders will probably say. Accidents will happen. That is a fact. Wayne LaPierre could fall off a stepladder at home. He could even break his neck in a fall. Then the gun nuts would have a new bumper sticker slogan. I can see it now: “Guns don’t kill people. Stepladders do.”

What else happened in gun-related news last week? Tuesday, a 12-year-old boy opened fire with a shotgun at his school. We’ve had so many school shootings in America we need to clarify which one and where. This time the bloodshed took place at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, New Mexico. ABC News talked to one witness soon after the shooting:

“I just saw blood everywhere,” Essance Sosa, 12, said Tuesday. “Everyone started screaming and running.”

A metaphor for America.

Blood everywhere. Some might call that a metaphor for America. That would be an opinion, of course.

So: what other adamantine facts do we have? The boy had a shotgun. He brought it from home. (Just about every school shooter in the last ten years has.) He hid it in a band-instrument case or some sort of large bag. Reports vary on that. It has been said he also sawed the weapon off so it would be easier to hide. Now an 11-year-old classmate is in critical condition. A 13-year-old girl is wounded too.

Witnesses also report that an eight-grade social studies teacher, John Masterson, probably saved lives. Masterson is said to have convinced the boy to lay down his weapon without doing additional harm.
I think we can guess what the N.R.A. will say: “We must arm all the teachers.” 

That’s just my guess, though. That’s not a fact. Still, consider this kind of scenario. Suppose Masterson had been armed? Is the real solution to start having Wild West shootouts in our schools? Armed teacher vs. armed student?

Frankly, that seems nuts.

It’s hard to keep all the school shootings straight.

Pay attention now. Don’t mix up your school shootings. Don’t confuse Masterson with Michael Lansberry, who tried to stop a shooter at his school. Lansberry died last October when an armed 12-year-old refused to lay down his weapon. Once more two classmates were wounded. Then the shooter took his own life. To help you keep track: that incident took place at a middle school in Sparks, Nevada.

It does get confusing. Gunfire erupted inside Arapahoe High School in Colorado on December 13. More bullets flew at Edison High School in California the following week. And don’t forget the shooting at Liberty Technology Magnet High School in Tennessee. That was just nine days ago. 
Finally, let’s not forget the bloodshed at Hillhouse High School January 13. Of course, sometimes, armed students are stopped before they can act. An 11-year-old boy in Vancouver, Washington was arrested recently. He was carrying guns and 400 rounds of ammunition at his school.

Sadly, the mayhem in our schools continued yesterday. This time two teens hanging out in the gym at their school were wounded. This time bullets flew at Delaware Valley Charter High School near Philadelphia. Both victims were fifteen. One was treated and released. The other is in stable condition.

Florida “stand your ground” law unlikely to cover assault with a box of popcorn.

That shooting capped another bloody week in another bloody month in another bloody year in the United States. Consider just one other case for the week. We know that a theater patron, Curtis J. Reeves, 71,shot another patron Monday at a matinee showing. (Lone Survivor was about to come on the screen.) We know Reeves is 71. 

We know Chad Oulson, 43, the second patron, is dead. Those are facts. What exactly happened in the dark theater is unclear. Reeves told police Oulson was texting during the previews. This troubled Reeves and he told Oulson to stop. Words were exchanged. 

Friends of Oulson say he was texting a babysitter about a sick child. Reeves was questioned by police after his arrest. He explained what transpired to an investigator on the case:

“The victim stood up, striking him in the face with an unknown object. The defendant advised that he removed the .380 semiautomatic handgun from his pants pocket, firing one round striking the victim, and that he was in fear of being attacked.” 

What did Oulson use to strike Reeves? Witnesses say he threw popcorn at the older man. A box? A tub? Buttered? Who knows?

Does it matter at this point?

The Second Amendment does not cover that.

There are bloodier nations in the world. That much is true. Syria, for example, is wracked by civil war. Ethnic fighting in South Sudan and drug-related killings in Mexico come to mind. Yet, of all the advanced nations of the world, we lead in both gun ownership and gun-related killings. And we lead by a mile.

In America one four-year-old kills another. A twelve-year-old boy shoots a teacher. A forty-three-year old theater patron is cut down. The Second Amendment was not written with any of that in mind.

Author: John Viall is an ex-Marine, a retired teacher and currently at work on a book about education, called "Two Legs Suffice: Lessons Learned by Teaching." He writes about education at