This past week we had our latest mass shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. It happened on Valentine's Day and Ash Wednesday. It is the second "major shooting" – according to CNN there have already been 8 school shootings total – in 2018. The first was on January 23 at Marshall County High School where two students were killed and 14 others were injured. Marshall seems to have already faded in our memory.
Valentine's Day and Shootings
Once upon a time almost 90 years ago, seven members of the Chicago underworld were killed en masse by a rival gang. It was Prohibition and it was a turf war. We know it as the St. Valentine's Day Massacre.
Here we are, eighty-nine years later, with a new St. Valentine's Day Massacre. This time there are 17 dead. But in this massacre those killed were not gang members who knew the dangers of their world. No. Fourteen of the victims were children. Innocents. The other three were their teachers. And the killer was not some underworld tough guy. He was a 19 year old who was pissed at the world. I don't know why he was pissed. What I do know is that he had an AR-15 style assault rifle. At 19 years old he had an assault rifle with lots of ammunition. On Valentine's Day. At a school.
Are We Crazy?
What else I know is that the responses to this tragedy from our leadership in Washington focused on mental health and included no mention of guns or gun control. We have apparently passed a milestone, and it is no longer reasonable or even necessary to question our population's ready access to weaponry. It has become an absolute.
Perhaps our leaders are right. Perhaps it is a mental health issue. For what nation in its right mind would tolerate a status quo where its number of guns exceeds its population? That's right. According to GunPolicy.org the U.S. proudly leads the world with 101 guns for every 100 residents. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) puts our first-in-the-world figure at a more modest 88 guns for every 100 residents. But what does it matter? Either way it is sick.
Pizza and Lotteries
I don't want to bore you with statistics, so instead of guns just imagine a Domino's 8-slice pizza. The U.S. took 4 slices for itself and left 4 slices for the rest of the world. Way more than its share.
For gun-related deaths, let's use a lottery ticket. An American is three times as likely to have his or her ticket selected as anyone else. And each of us has 51 times the chance of being the ticket-holder as someone from the United Kingdom! And I suspect the lottery analogy is really not far from reality. Life does seem to be closer to a lottery than ever before.
Who Can Believe It?
Is it any wonder we have such a high rate of killings by gun? Does it surprise anyone that there is an absolute positive correlation between the number of guns in a country and the number of deaths in that country caused by guns? It shouldn't. We lead in guns owned and we lead in firearm-caused deaths. I know we like to lead the world, but this is not a category where we want to be first, or even in the top ten.
What is the answer? The popular answer these days seems to be to buy more guns; arm everyone. Stop those bad guys before they stop us. Stop them with your gun. There are even calls to arm our school teachers! The narrative goes this way, "This killing or that one would not have happened if you had a gun and stopped that guy."
Mental health problems? Yes, I would say so.