For their Facebook page, The Guardian chose an interesting pull-quote from a piece on school shootings and gun control:
Schools now practice lockdown drills to prepare students for what to do if a shooter does enter the building. These drills entail getting all students out of the hallways, turning off the lights, locking doors, and having students sit silently on the floor and away from the windows. These drills are practiced multiple times a year, so these issues are constantly on students’ and teachers’ minds.
Silly me was damn sure this was a Lenore Skenazy-esque plea for sanity in a time of unprecedented safety, happiness, and prosperity for our nation and for our young people. Sadly, author (and teacher, that’s going to come up a lot) Ashley Lauren Samsa is not about that. She desperately wants President Obama to do something about the gun violence in America, particularly in our schools. Samsa supports a ban on automatic weapons and background checks for every firearms purchase. That’s fine, in that her opinion is not an uncommon one — it’s even the majority one for the latter measure — and more importantly, it is her prerogative to argue whatever she wishes. But read how she begins her plea for fewer guns, and tell me if it strikes you as odd:
As a teacher, I expected to return to my classroom after the holidays refreshed and ready for the second half of the year. That’s happened to a certain extent, but I can’t ignore the ongoing violence in America’s schools. On 14 January, a 12-year-old boy in New Mexico came to school with a sawed-off, 20-gauge shotgun and opened fire, wounding two students before a teacher was able to persuade him to put the gun down. On 17 January, two high school students were injured at a charter school in Philadelphia when another teen opened fire. On 20 January, a student sitting in the parking lot of Widener University in Chester, Pennsylvania was injured by an unknown gunman. On 21 January, ateaching assistant was killed by a gunman at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Yesterday, the University of Oklahoma was shut downbecause a member of the faculty reported hearing what he thought were three gunshots, though, fortunately, police are now saying what he heard was more likely machinery backfiring.
All this horror in the the first weeks of January alone.
Not one of these events has prompted the national uproar America saw after the Sandy Hook shooting on 14 December 2012. While the damage done at these schools was far less than that done at Sandy Hook – where 20 children and six staff members were killed – the lack of attention paid to these events is indicative of a larger issue: Americans are becoming numb to gun violence.
For teachers, however, these tragedies are all too real. With so many of these shootings – many of them the worst the nation has seen – taking place at schools and universities, we educators can’t help but feel afraid.
Four injuries in side a school, one outside by an unknown actor who potentially had no connection to the school. One death. And best of all, one case of “machinery backfiring.” The juxtaposition between that anticlimactic incident and the sentence beginning with “All this horror…” is inadvertently hilarious, which is not the tone Samsa intended. And she goes on, even more bizarrely, to suggest a numbness towards school and gun violence has occurred since Sandy Hook. Why? Because five injuries, one death, and one case of loud noises had not provoked the same reaction as twenty slaughtered six-year-olds? Hell, I turned on the TV a few days ago and CNN was broadcasting a press conference about the shooting by the 12-year-old with the shotgun.
Did they do a press conference about the 70-odd people killed by car bombs in Iraq during the same time? I didn’t see one. U.S. policy is greatly to blame for the disastrous state of that country and that’s a lot more deaths. How do we decide what should provoke our horror and our hand-wringing? How about car accidents? We’re clearly willing to do accept that level of risk, based on the convenience of automobiles. Or the risk that comes with owning a home or a bathtub? Why are guns so — pardon the pun — politically loaded? And just once, I would like the onus to be on the person suggesting a ban or restriction or law to be to prove it will go just as they say it will. Do they want a potentially dangerous, Jerry Brown California-style round-up of now-illicit guns? What will the punishment be for those who don’t obey the laws? Do liberals, who profess to be (and to be far, the good ones really are) against the prison-industrial complex, realize that demanding the outlawing of something will lead to more outlaws, then more prisoners? By all means, write about and advocate for a new law, but stop pretending that human beings will simply follow it, end of story. Human nature and all of history disproves that notion.
So no, we don’t react to every newspaper blurb like we did to the second worst school shooting in US history. Because as hysterical as we are about violence, we’re not as hysterical as Ms. Samsa as she pushes for gun control legislation and implies that one death is two injuries, is a loud, scary noise ,as long there was some tenuous — occasionally entirely psychological — connection to guns.