Diane Dimond: Kids on the front lines
By Diane Dimond
News announcer: “There’s been another school shooting. This time at the Troutdale High School in Oregon, about 16 miles east of Portland.”
I don’t want to write about this. It feels like screaming into the wilderness with no one listening. And I feel silly now admitting that I really thought things would change after the December 2012 mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
I honestly believed the senseless deaths of 26 little children and teachers (as well as one horribly misguided mother) in Connecticut was going to be a watershed event that would spur a host of new ideas to curb violence.
I was wrong. The sickening tally is in. Since the Newtown tragedy there have been 74 more shootings at American schools. That’s about one per week.
What’s wrong with us that we can’t stop this awful trend?
Roswell, New Mexico
St. Louis, Missouri
Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia
A gun safety group named Everytown for Gun Safety has been keeping track of each time a gun is discharged on school property — schools from K-12 to trade schools and universities. It is happening in every region of the country.
Houston and Austin, Texas
Arapahoe County, Colorado
Isla Vista, Santa Monica and Fresno, California
Assaults, accidental shootings, homicides and suicides witnessed by our children. Grisly and terrifying scenes they will likely never forget and may haunt them for years.
Imagine how your child would have reacted if he had been in the boy’s bathroom at the Davidson Middle School in Southgate, Michigan, last March to witness 13-year-old Tyler Nichols shoot himself in the head.
Kids across America now have similar haunting memories etched into their psyche.
Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Memphis and Clarksville, Tennessee
Of the 74 school shootings since Newtown, 35 took place at institutions of higher learning. Think about that when you send your kid off to college. The remainder of the incidents, 39 at this writing, occurred in lower grade schools, and it didn’t matter if they were public or private schools, religious or non-denominational. All schools are potential targets. Ponder that for a moment.
How would your child have reacted if she or she had been in the Sparks, Nevada, classroom where 12-year-old Jose Reyes suddenly began to shout, “Why are you laughing at me” and pulled out a 9mm Ruger. He shot his teacher to death and wounded two of his young classmates. What could you possibly say or do to make it all better for your child after they had witnessed that?
Cincinnati, Kent and Lyndhurst, Ohio
Des Moines and Algona, Iowa
Milwaukee and Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Rapid City, South Dakota
The youngest shooter was a 5-year-old who brought a gun in a backpack to Westside Elementary School in Frayser, Tennessee, last August. The gun discharged in the cafeteria as students waited for the first bell. Thankfully, no one was hurt. The oldest gunman was a 53-year-old custodian who killed two fellow janitors on the Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts campus in West Palm Beach, Florida, last June.
Now, just last week, episode number 74 occurred at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon. A teenager with a rifle shot and killed a 14-year-old freshman and wounded a gym teacher before killing himself.
This is the shocking reality of what we have allowed to become an almost regular occurrence. Yet communities seem stunned when it happens close to home.
Winston-Salem, North Carolina
The most discouraging section of the Everytown for Gun Safety summary concludes that, just like the latest 15-year-old shooter in Oregon, many of the under-age gunmen, “Had easy access to guns at home” or from other adults in their life.
Remember the Michigan youngster who took his own life in the boy’s room? His parents admitted the gun their son used had been stored in a box above their refrigerator — an unlocked box.
Let’s get real, folks. Common sense tells us kids don’t get guns by walking into a sporting goods store and buying one. Officials estimate there are more than 300 million privately owned firearms in the U.S. (that doesn’t count the guns used by law enforcement, the military or those illegally held). There are plenty of opportunities for a minor to get their hands on one.
If you are one of the millions of Americans who choose to own a gun, SECURE IT. Buy a gun cabinet, a trigger lock or a simple lock box — and do it today. Regularly check to make sure your weapon is where you think it is. Routinely talk to your family about gun safety.
To anti-gun citizens, stop with the parrot-like calls for more gun and ammunition laws. We already have plenty of laws that are completely ignored. Those who would use a gun in the commission of a crime are not deterred by words on a piece of paper. Put on your thinking caps because the reality is clear. Guns are a part of American life — love it or hate it — and we need to learn to come up with new solutions to the very real problem they can pose.
To members of the National Rifle Association: This is not an attack on your right to own firearms. This is not a call for a national registry of gun owners that your membership believes could be used against them at some future date. So, please, no angry emails about your constitutional rights.
This is a call to responsible gun owners everywhere to act responsibly so the rest of us can feel safer when we send our children off to school. You carefully lock up your car, so do the same with your firearms.
Many schools already have X-ray machines at their entrances, continuous safety patrols and even police presence, yet shootings still happen at places where our children are supposed to feel safe. We’re a nation of smart, determined people. Let’s fix this.