Friday, August 24, 2012

... and still we cling to our guns!

Murder Innocents Mormon
Murder Innocents Mormon (Photo credit: More Good Foundation)

Here's what I said five years ago... nothing ever changes

SEPTEMBER 22, 2007

When Will All These Classroom Killings Stop?

A piece I wrote several months ago concerning a classroom shooting incident in Pennsylvania seems to be just a pertinent today:
When Will These Classroom Killings Stop?
Jim Castagnera
On Monday a crazy gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech residence hall and a little later in a classroom across campus, killing some 30 people in what is being labeled “the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.” The gunman subsequently was killed, bringing the death toll to 31. As I wrote this column, no one knew the murder’s motive.
Virginia Tech’s president was quoted by the Associated Press as saying, “Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions. The university is shocked and indeed horrified."
In 21st century America we have almost come to accept these horrible mass murders as natural disasters. This community has been hit by a hurricane. That one has been torn up by a tornado. Oh, and that one over there has been blasted by a madman with a gun. The Tech student body no doubt will be afforded free access to “grief counselors.”
We used to say, "Everybody talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it." Should we now say, "Everybody talks about gun violence, but no one does anything about it?" Living here in suburban Philadelphia, I watched as the City of Brotherly Love averaged one homicide per day in 2006. Philly passed the 100-homicide mark during the first quarter of ’07, suggesting it well may be on its way to breaking last year’s record. Here, too, students are, often as not, counted among the innocent victims of gun violence gone out of control.
Yeh, I know… guns don't kill people, people kill people. But these killers are better armed than ever before. When I was a Franklin and Marshall College student a lifetime ago, I witnessed plenty of fights, often of the town v. gown variety. A group of fraternity punks, such as myself, might get a bit rowdy in a local tavern. The blue-collar crowd at the opposite end of the bar might take umbrage. The upshot might then be a quick exchange of fisticuffs. On a rare occasion a knife or a broken bottle could come into play.
My point is: almost nobody carried a gun.
By contrast today, if you are confronted by a belligerent bar fly, run for your car.
Odds are better than even the guy is packing.
No need to look for trouble in a local bar, however. Virginia Tech is not the only school where guns have gotten into classrooms. Just last year a local high school student entered one of our county’s Catholic high schools, discharged his father’s AK-47, then shot himself. We could only be grateful that the troubled youth didn’t first kill his classmates, making Delaware County the scene of a new Columbine massacre.
The Canadian college professor, Marshall McLuhan - best known during my college days for saying "The medium is the message" - asserted that Americans live in "Bonanzaland," i.e., the Wild West of the 1880s. Well, folks, that time is long past. Our K-12 schools have rightly adopted zero-tolerance policies toward weapons in their halls and classrooms. Colleges, too, have clamped down on violence --- even the fisticuffs of my era.
Obviously, this isn’t enough.
Neither are grief counselors enough.
The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution may give us all the right to bear arms… though some judges and scholars have questioned the Supreme Court’s reading of that bit of the Bill of Rights. Regardless of what rights we want to read into the Second Amendment, I say our daughters and sons have a higher right: to enjoy and benefit from their educations without looking over their shoulders and wondering whether today is the day their classroom is riddled with bullets.
I don’t have the answer, folks. I just know in my guts that, until we dispense with the grief counselors and the platitudes, and get mad as hell about travesties like this latest massacre at Virginia Tech, the killing is just going to continue.

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