There’s no way to stop it in the only country where it happens by Andrew Bundy
(Editor’s note: Andrew Bundy is this editor’s son and published freelance writer)
I have been waiting to respond to the latest school shooting. No, I’m not going to say that we have a gun problem. No, I’m not going to call for gun-control laws that, depending on the poll, 77-88% of Americans want, including a majority of Republicans. No, I’m not going to remind you that American movies, music, and video games sell everywhere in the world (including the ones without mass shooting). No, I’m not going to harp on the reality that “the good guys with guns” hid outside for over an hour while children died and then decided it was better to lie (or be inaccurate) to investigators, parents, and the press. And no, I’m not going to point out that mental illness is a worldwide problem that only seems to cause mass shooting events in the United States. The US is the only country in the world that has mass shootings on a scale like this (I googled it to double check and even conservative sites list us as an “outlier”), so there is obviously nothing we can do to stop them.
I am going to point out that a large group of people showed up at school board meetings across this country attacking mask mandates and social distancing guidelines – things that were SCIENTIFICALLY PROVEN to save lives and decrease the spread of a virus – and the same number of people probably won’t show up at their representative’s office and demand safer childhoods for their children. I am going to point out that many people are more afraid of “Critical Race Theory,” which is an over-40-year-old legal theory taught in legal colleges and not really a thing in K-12 schools (you’re thinking of “Culturally Responsive Teaching,” which has been around since the 1990s.), and the potential existence of transgender people than they are of mass school shootings. In fact, some people, such as Marjorie Taylor Green, are so afraid of the existence of transgender people that she tried to blame transgenderism as the motivation of the shooter, despite the fact that the fascist internet trolls who made that up were exposed and the whole thing was proven to be a lie.
And then, after President Trump read the names of the dead children at an NRA speech and did a victory dance – I assume because he read something successfully and not because those kids were dead, we got the REAL reason mass shootings happen: human secularism.
Arizona State Senator Rick Gray blamed “human secularism” for shootings because, as he said, in schools, “You can’t pray. You can’t even pray on the field. There is no God.” This is a view that Rick Gray said out loud in Arizona, but I’ve heard forms of it in meetings and read bits of it on Facebook, so I know it is held locally, too.
(Plus, not for nothing, it’s “secular humanism.”)
First of all, yes, you can pray in schools. You can pray all you want! Students participate in “See You At The Pole” every year, and if prayer at school was illegal, that wouldn’t happen. I know many kids who pray at the beginning of the day or over lunch or frantically over a test they really should have studied for. Schools can’t force your kid to pray, though, to a chosen God. The First Amendment says that Congress cannot declare a state religion (read it). And if we lived in a majority Muslim country, I bet you’d be okay with that. In addition, that football coach who is about to win his Supreme Court case even though everyone involved admitted that he was lying about the entire thing could pray, but he was using his position as coach to persuade kids to do it. I bet if he were a Satanist, you’d have a problem with that, too. He’s also directly violating Matthew 6:5-6. And I have yet to see a school district announce that there is no God as a mission statement. Most school districts have their mission statements posted to the internet. Mandatory Bible Reading in schools ended around 1963. The Modern School Shooting Era began with Columbine in 1999. Apparently, there was a really slow burn on that fuse. If this argument held true, then there would never be a shooting at a church. No, these arguments are just distractions.
You know what else is a distraction? The calls to arm teachers. First of all, since people have been shouting at school boards for a while now, no one trusts teachers to teach or even pick out a book for a class to read! David Mamet and Fox News recently flirted with “actual malice” calling all teachers predators. People worry that teachers are indoctrinating kids, so they think giving teachers guns will make them less intimidating?!!? It’s a distraction; no one actually believes that it’s a good idea. Besides, and I’ve said this before, if you’re serious about arming school personnel beyond the school resource officers, you should arm the custodians. They have nerves of steel – they have to unclog school toilets! They’re everywhere. They know more about the building and points-of-entry than anyone else in the district. And, thanks to their ubiquity, people tend not to notice them doing their jobs thanklessly in the background. But like all other education decisions in this country, it’s being made without involving actual educators, so that’s not on the table.
Politicians do nothing. The NRA does nothing. Thoughts and prayers do nothing. But you know what your local schools have done? They’ve battle-hardened their buildings. They’ve streamlined entrance procedures and exit procedures. They’ve done lockdown drills, active shooter drills, and fire drills that are essentially lockdown drills. They have plans in place for evacuation and, chillingly, they have a procedure for how to tell parents that their child did not make it to the rendezvous point. I’ve been in those trainings. I look across the parking lot at the elementary school when I hear about yet another school shooting and hope every day that today is not the day that some person’s compensation for their lack of self-esteem outweighs my son’s life.
There is obviously nothing that can be done to stop mass school shootings, but if we’re going to try something, let’s avoid the stupid ideas. Let’s avoid blaming things that exist in every other country in the world where there aren’t these massive events. Let’s just be honest with ourselves: mass school shootings happen in the United States because we lack the courage to stop them.
Andrew Bundy is a husband, father, teacher, writer, and nerd. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.