It’s obvious by now. We have a problem. Since 2015, we’ve lost more children to school shootings than we’ve lost soldiers to war.
We’ve gone an entire calendar month without a child being shot in school one time in the last 42 months.
We’ve had at least 10 American children shot every month since last August.
It’s true, not all have been fatal. If it were half or a third or even a tenth, it would still be a problem worth solving. If you’re compelled to knit pick the data, you’re part of the problem.
There was a time in my life where it was my job to stop terrorist attacks. There’s rarely a silver bullet. Silver bullet arguments are for cable news and Twitter. Solving hard problems takes a comprehensive approach; an understanding that there are multiple parts of any systemic problem. Stopping terrorist acts is complicated business.
In case you’re confused, that’s what school shootings are.
They’re sensational acts of violence with a goal of inflicting mass casualties and attracting media attention to cause fear. If you care a bunch about whether or not school shootings are called terrorism, then it’s likely that politics plays too big a role in this for you. And that’s part of the problem.
These shootings are often carried out by people with mental health issues. When we pealed back the onion on the folks blowing themselves up in markets in Iraq, those folks weren’t particularly rational either. Hurt people hurt people. That’s part of the problem.
Access to adequate mental health care in America isn’t easy. I know. My wife and I started a non-profit to give it away for free to parents of special needs kids. Because we found it was too hard to get any other way. And that’s part of the problem.
The most effective of these shootings are carried out by assault rifles, specifically the AR-15, which is, for most purposes, the same rifle that I carried in Iraq. In searching for how many AR-15s have been sold in America, I couldn’t find it from a reputable source. Because we are ignorant of gun statistics and information, in an institutional sense, in a way that it takes intentionality in 2018.
With a single Google search I can tell you that the most popular breakfast cereal in America is Cheerios. And that Americans spent over 900 million dollars more on Cheerios than they did on Trix last year.
That data was provided by the people that sold them.
I can’t tell you how many AR-15s were sold in America last year. Not from an institutional source. And that’s part of the problem.
Men and boys with histories of violence are shooting children in schools. The pattern is tight. It’s happened enough that we could develop a clean profile and some level of predictive analytics about who is or is not at risk for committing gun violence. Tragically, we reached the volume of statistical significance a long time ago.
The right rail on my Facebook feed knows what I’m about to click because it uses an algorithm that takes my observed behavior and predicts my next actions. It gets smarter every second. It makes billions of dollars.
We have no federally funded program to study anything, data or otherwise, related to the impacts of guns on public safety. And that’s part of the problem.
If the notion of data collection and predictive analytics for gun ownership steps on a liberty land mine for you, then that’s part of the problem.
Every mass shooting gets millions upon millions of dollars of media attention. Everyone knows the name of the perpetrator within 24 hours of the event. That’s part of the problem.
The NRA spends millions of dollars advocating for strict adherence to the Second Amendment. If they went away tomorrow, we wouldn’t get gun control legislation. Because the NRA isn’t the problem. There’s a culture war where threatened men who have seen their standing and privilege in America decreased slightly over the last two generations are binding the last bastion of American identity to a gun. That’s part of the problem.
We believe our schools are supposed to be sanctuaries of learning where the presence of security measures or armed guards are inappropriate. As the son of two inner city school teachers, it breaks my heart to say it. But that’s part of the problem.
We could go on and on and on about the parts of the problem that we have and probably not get to all of them.
Right now, those we surrender some level of our personal liberties and power to, our elected representatives, are shouting two things at each other. Prayers. And Gun control. No comprehensive solutions. And that’s part of the problem.
If we want school shootings to stop, there’s one approach. A collective agreement that for some period of time, we are going to have to do whatever it takes to stop it cold.
I was a part of the team responsible for the disruption of insurgent networks in Iraq during the 2010 elections. It’s not lost on me that what I’m about to say, comparing the task of keeping polling stations in Iraq safe from terrorists to the safety of 21 century American schools, is a tragedy in and of itself.
But that’s where we are. We’re in crisis. And it needs to end.
And the answer is saying immediately, that no school shooting happens ever again. We find what it takes to get to zero for long enough for it to stop being a “thing” and then dial it back.
That’s how this works when you want to stop a crisis.
Which means we’re going to have to get comfortable with a few things.
Our schools probably need to look more like airports for a while. We surrender some level of unfettered access to guns. We agree that maybe 88 per 100 Americans is probably too many to reasonably keep them from those who should not have them. We are comfortable with reduced or eliminated access to assault rifles. There is extensive data collection, research and technology investment in the impacts of firearms on public safety. Access to mental health care is increased. We conceal the names of perpetrators the way we conceal the names of victims or children in the media.
That’s a start. And one other thing.
We trust that we are going to surrender some control to our government in order to stop this.
And we hold those defined as accountable, those we’ve elected to run our government, accountable to take action. Not words or prayers. Action.
In 8 months, if you’re representative is up for election, and they do not support a comprehensive plan to stop school shootings that includes all of the above, then they don’t get your vote.
If we’re not willing to do that. Then we’re fine with our children being shot in schools.
And that’s part of the problem.