It’s Memorial Day, a day on which we honor those who died in active military service.
It’s also a day I can’t stop thinking about the schoolchildren who were gunned down by a young man carrying military style weapons.
To put things in perspective (if that’s even remotely possible), I’m going to start with some numbers:
- 27–There were 27 school shootings with injuries or deaths this year. (It’s only May.)
- 119—According to Education Week, which has been tracking school shootings since 2018, 119 school shootings have taken place since then.
- 212—According to NPR “The Gun Violence Archive, an independent data collection organization, has counted 212 mass shootings that have occurred so far this year, as of Tuesday. It defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people were shot or killed, excluding the shooter.”
- 1—FOX News reported that gun violence is now the leading cause of death of children in our country (surpassing car accidents).
The Gruesome Iceberg
Mass shootings and school shootings are just the horrific tip of the gruesome iceberg, as that last statistic shows. So, I’ll include just a few more numbers here from the Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project. They collected information from emergency departments and databases to provide “a more comprehensive picture of gun injuries in the U.S,” representing a three-year average of the most recent HCUPnet data available (2013, ‘14, and ‘16). The full chart can be seen at the Brady United website:
- Every day, 321 people are shot in the United States. 111 people are shot and killed
- Every day, 22 children and teens (1-17) are shot in the United States. 5 die from gun violence
- Every year, 117,345 people are shot. 40,620 people die from gun violence
- Every year, 7,957 children and teens are shot in the United States. 1839 children and teens die from gun violence
What’s missing from these stats are the vastly greater numbers of survivors, as well as family, friends, and community members whose lives are changed forever when a shooting occurs. Here’s a link to moving and important Washington Post article that talks about the impact on those left to pick up the pieces.
The numbers also ignore the impact on schoolchildren, teachers, parents, shoppers, worshippers around the whole country–ANY ONE who cares about others or who may worry if they will be next.
It Takes a Village
While watching the events unfold from the most recent tragedy—the Robb Elementary massacre in Uvalde Texas–I saw both Nicole Hockle, who lost her six-year-old Dylan at Sandy Hook, and Fred Guttenberg, who lost his teen-aged daughter Jaime at Parkland, respond to the Texas school killings. They both said they would make themselves available to the parents and families of those who died. Both would be visiting Uvalde shortly.
I’m reminded of a blog I posted 3 years ago in August just after the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings. It was about Sandy and Lonnie Phillips who lost their 24-year-old daughter Jessica Ghawi at the Aurora, Colorado movie theater attack. (Eleven others were murdered and 58 wounded that evening at the theater.) When the Phillips hear of a mass shooting, they get into their cars and drive to the towns where the shootings took place to offer their support to survivors.
People who know me know that one of my favorite sayings is “It takes a village.” Not one of us can, or should be expected to, do this thing called life alone.
I’m glad that these grieving parents, siblings, grandparents, neighbors, friends in Uvalde will have people to hold them as they make their way through the depths that anyone who has not lost a child to violence cannot possibly wrap their heads around.
But, And, I am angry and heartbroken that such a “village” exists. Angry and heartbroken that there are now several such villages.
That school shootings have become a “thing.” That any mass shooting, be it at a supermarket, a church, a synagogue, a nail salon, a mall, a dance club, a Walmart, has become a “thing.”
How insulting to survivors that nothing has been done to stop these senseless attacks. Did their losses, their loved ones, mean anything to those in power?
How each new shooting must feel like a stab directly into their hearts.
A common—and oh-so-tired—refrain I hear a lot is that “it’s not guns that kill people, people kill people.” That the fault lies not with our utter lack of gun laws but with the state of mental health of the individuals who choose to shoot up a school, or a supermarket, or a place of worship.
Thank You, Chris Murphy
To those spouting that refrain–and everyone else–please listen to Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who delivered an impassioned speech just hours after the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.
Here are just a few of his words (I recommend listening to Senator Murphy, as he gives his whole speech):
“As the slaughter increases, as our kids run for their lives, we do nothing.
What are we doing?
This isn’t inevitable. These kids weren’t ‘unlucky’. This only happens in this country, and nowhere else.
Nowhere else do kids go to school thinking that they might be shot that day.
Nowhere else does that happen except here in the United States of America. And it is a choice. It is our choice to let it continue.
There is a place where we can achieve agreement. That may not guarantee that America never ever again sees a mass shooting.
That may not, overnight, cut in half the number of murders that happen in America. It will not solve the problem of American violence by itself.
But by doing something, we at least stop sending this quiet message of endorsement to these killers, whose brains are breaking, who see the highest levels of government doing nothing.
Spare me the bullshit about mental illness.
We don’t have any more mental illness than any other country in the world.
You cannot explain this through a prism of mental illness because we’re not an outlier on mental illness.
We’re an outlier when it comes to access to firearms and the ability of criminals and very sick people to get their arms on firearms. That’s what makes America different.”
“THAT’S WHAT MAKES AMERICA DIFFERENT.” I don’t know about you, but I never want to be different in that way.
I Don’t Want to Take Away Your Right to Own a Gun
I don’t own a gun and don’t imagine I ever will. I don’t hunt for food (I’m a vegetarian) and I certainly don’t hunt for sport.
I DON’T like guns!
But, And, I am old enough and mature enough to understand—and respect—the fact that many people enjoy gun ownership.
And, I don’t want to take away your right to own a gun.
But, And I DO want background checks for gun owners. I DO want guns to be licensed and registered.
AND I DO WANT THESE HORRIBLE WAR WEAPONS OUT OF THE HANDS OF CIVILIANS.
It feels oddly ironic—and fitting—that my last blog post was about hope. In that post, I spoke about hope as action, even—especially—in the face of uncertainty around outcome.
I have no problem with “thoughts and prayers.” Yet, there’s an uproar against speaking those three words. I think that’s because “thoughts and prayers” all many people who have the power to affect real change are offering. Thoughts and prayers can be helpful in the comfort they bring. But, and they are not enough.
Today (and yesterday) and tomorrow are not times for us to sit quietly in contemplation—alone. It is time to raise our voices, speak out–and act!
To that end, I am including the links to several organizations taking donations to support the tireless work they do towards ending gun violence in our country. Each of these groups also offers actionable recommendations to help you become more involved.
We started with numbers. Now, before we leave, here are the names. The names of the 19 children who were murdered at Robb Elementary. The names of their teachers.
Alexandria Aniyah Rubio, Alithia Ramirez, Amerie Jo Garza, Annabell Guadalupe Rodriguez, Eliahana Cruz Torres, Eliana “Ellie” Garcia, Eva Mireles, Irma Garcia, Jackie Cazares, Jailah Nicole Silguero, Jayce Luevanos, Jose Flores, Layla Salazar, Makenna Lee Elrod, Maite Rodriguez, Miranda Mathis, Nevaeh Bravo, Rojelio Torres, Tess Marie Mata, Uziyah Garcia, Xavier Lopez
LAST BUT CERTAINLY NOT LEAST
I leave you with one of the most powerful, heartfelt essays by Brian Doyle, one of my very favorite essayists. It’s called Dawn and Mary and it’s about two women who made the choice to act. Doyle wrote the essay shortly after Sandy Hook.
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment or send me an email. Wishing you and your loved ones peace, safety–and action.
See you soon!
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