Appalachian School of Law Shootings

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Tue, 22 Jan 2002

Take action to end school violence

Bob Warring
University Wire

Lake Worth, Fla. Deming, N.M. Mount Morris Township, Mich. Does anyone know what these American towns have in common?

You should.

Each was the site of school gun violence that resulted in a loss of life during the past three years.

Who really cares?

You should.

The recent tragedy at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., should sicken and frighten us all. A dean, a professor and a student are dead and three others are wounded after a suspended student opened fire there with a semiautomatic handgun last Wednesday.

Does it need to be said that this incident could just as easily have happened at the University of Pennsylvania? Surely, with our Ivy League snobbery, we understand that such a tragedy, if anything, is more likely at a place like Penn: “If a student at the Appalachian School of Law could care so much about his education, clearly a Penn student…”

Nonetheless, what’s even more sickening and frightening is the way in which we have simply come to accept gun violence—including and especially gun violence at schools—as a part of modern American society. Columbine shocked us, both in its scope and its efficiency. But since then, school shootings seem prosaic. Like a bad storm, we expect to get one every few months. Then—like after a bad storm—we clean up the mess and forget about it.

Does anyone remember the names of three California towns—Oxnard, Santee and El Cajon? These were some of the bad storms of 2001.

I will admit that in my position it’s very easy to paint oneself as the crusading moralist, blasting one’s peers for their contemptible apathy. No doubt most of you are apathetic, and that is contemptible, but to be perfectly honest I’m not much for crusading or morality. Adherence to either is much less glamorous in practice than in thought.

But gun violence is an issue important enough to demand the attention and energy of everyone—including the apathetic. We are all aware of the facts. “A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than it is to be used against an intruder.” “On average, 10 children a day are killed in the US by guns.” And my personal favorite: “57 percent of handguns are stored unlocked, and 55 percent are kept loaded. 30 percent of handgun owners keep their guns unlocked and loaded.”

Many of us are cognizant of the “American cowboy” image abroad, too. In 1996, there were 9,390 handgun deaths in the U.S., compared to only 30 in Great Britain, 15 in Japan and two in New Zealand.

Some of us might even know that studies show a strong correlation between guns and the incidence of suicide and domestic abuse.

Has there ever before been such an extensive body of incontrovertible evidence or a people so reluctant to take action?

Or counterarguments so stupid?

I’ve seen some strange headlines the past week and a half: “Pres. Bush Chokes on Pretzel” and “Punxsutawney Phil a Terrorist Target?” But show me “Kung Fu Master Kills [insert any number greater than one]” or even “Knife-wielding Maniac Kills [insert any number greater than two]” and I’ll rethink. Until then, I’m decided: Guns kill people a hell of a lot better than people do.

It’s not that I’m unsympathetic to the Constitutional argument. You show me a member of a well-regulated militia that is popularly recognized to be necessary to the security of our free state, and I would gladly vote to allow him to have his pistol or rifle for use against our government in the event that they attack us with their bombers and tanks.

The problem of gun violence in schools merely highlights a larger problem in our country’s gun laws. Right now, most states don’t even require a permit to purchase either handguns, rifles or shotguns. Nor do they mandate registration or licensing. We are so far from where we need to be.

Allowing ourselves to grow accustomed to school gun violence—and all gun violence, for that matter—will not fix this problem. It won’t just go away. Our moral outrage, if kept to ourselves, will do nothing.

Instead, Americans favoring better gun control must pledge their support for organizations, like the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and the Anti-Gun Coalition of America, and hold state lawmakers accountable for their votes on current legislation aimed at closing the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows unlicensed gun sellers to circumvent required background checks.

Let’s stop being the silent majority.

Who really cares about gun control and the safety of our schools?

We do.

(C) 2002 Daily Pennsylvanian via U-WIRE

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