School Shootings Are A Danger, Not A Tragedy
There is a refrain that has been running through my head: If I choose not to use a car seat, and my son severs his spine in a car crash, I cannot be surprised. If I choose to allow my daughter to ride a bike without a helmet, and she cracks her head on the pavement, I cannot be surprised. If I choose to send my children to school in America, and a school shooting takes placeâ€”if my son is shot, or his friend is shot, or his teacher is shot as she shields him and his friend with her bodyâ€”I cannot be surprised. I donâ€™t know what to do when I reach the end of this refrain.
Since my son was born three and a half years ago, and my daughter two years after that, I have developed a complicated but effective matrix for identifying dangers, and for allowing my fear to lead me toward reasonable defenses. Car seats and helmets, baby gates and life jackets: these are my reasonable responses to the dangers in the world that might harm my children. My fear is healthy, and I donâ€™t allow it to overpower me or my children. All of this is evolution at work, I am sure.
At the same time there are fears I dismiss, fears like shadows, lurking always in my periphery. Leukemia. A texting teenager behind the wheel of a car. If I allowed these thoughts to enter my mind I would be paralyzed by my inability to protect my children. There is nothing I can do to prevent these tragedies, and so I force myself not to think about them; they are not the same as the dangers I fear, and which I guard against as a result.
School shootings, we are told, are tragedies that befall our children. In the wake of the shooting in Newtown, Connecticut in December of 2012, President Obama said, â€œWe have endured too many of these tragedies in the past few years.â€ Most recently, a shooting on June 10 at Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Oregon left one victim and the shooter dead. Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson expressed his condolences for â€œeveryone who will be affected by this tragic incident.â€
Since 1996 there have been 129 incidents of a gun being fired on school grounds (either a shooting, or a suicide, for example). Of those, 85 have occurred in K-12 schools, 46â€”more than halfâ€”in just the past three and a half years. We know this, already though. We hear the numbers every time thereâ€™s another shooting: how many so far this year, how many since Newtown, since Columbine. Counting these events doesnâ€™t seem to change anything.