September 23, 2019 | 90° F

EDITORIAL: School shootings are preventable

Solution to problem begins outside of educational institutions


Last Wednesday’s school shooting in Parkland, Florida left 17 dead. No matter one’s political affiliation, it can be agreed upon that events like this are horrific and have no place in our country. Now, it seems as though everyone across the political spectrum is searching for answers to the same question — how do we ensure that nothing like this ever happens again?

Responses to situations like Wednesday’s are seemingly automatic. One side argues that we need to crack down on gun ownership, and the other argues that there is insufficient research on the topic to prove that cracking down would solve anything. And, in fact, there is very limited research in the realm of gun violence — which acts as a roadblock in this discussion and more importantly on the path to the solution. But when you narrow the topic down to school shootings rather than mass killings in general, the answers seem become more intuitive. But first, we have to get our definitions straight.

Research done by Everytown seems to show that since the start of 2018, there have been 18 school shootings. At first glance, that statistic is extremely shocking, but through further evaluation it is easy to see that Everytown’s definition of school shooting is rather misleading. Most of the school shootings that have happened in 2018 are nothing like what occured last week in Florida. In fact, a number of them were accidental, resulted in no deaths or injuries or did not even take place within a school building. In order for everyone to be on the same page, this fact is important to note. 

Despite Everytown’s vague definition, the information gathered by them is still worth thinking about. Let’s say our goal is to allow students to feel safe from gunfire in their school. Imagine that at a given school, students are free to bring guns. It would seem to follow that more of them would do so, and that rates of accidental firings and incidents of the sort would be more common, simply because there are more guns. Especially considering how rare incidents like Parkland’s are, would more guns really correlate with more safety in that case? But if we imagine a school with as few guns as possible and extremely stringent rules on the matter, it would seem that there would be very few instances of accidental shootings. The thing is, for that to happen we would need to trust that students would not have a way of getting guns into school. This would begin outside of the institution. 

The man who committed the atrocity in Parkland, who will not be named here, was a 19-year-old prone to violent outbursts and self-destructive behavior. Last February he legally bought the murder weapon, an AR-15 style firearm. The ease at which he was able to purchase the weapon no doubt played a part in his ability to commit the attack. Think about it like this — how much less likely are you to change the channel on the T.V. if the remote is across the room compared to if it’s right next to you? Most of us just don’t feel like getting up in the former case. In the same sense, a kid may presumably be much less likely to go through with a plan to shoot up a school if getting a gun is a significant burden. 

There cannot be one simple cause of this massacre or others like it. A yearning for some sort of glorification — which is why we won’t be mentioning the killer’s name — and a degree of mental illness of the perpetrator likely played key roles in this incident. But so much weight cannot be placed on the scapegoat of mental illness. While people that commit atrocities like this are never sane, if common mental disorders are highly prevalent globally then why do school shootings happen so much more often in the U.S.? Less guns at school must begin with less guns at home. So if we’re talking about keeping kids safe, it begins outside of school, not when the shooter arrives. 


The Daily Targum's editorials represent the views of the majority of the 150th editorial board. Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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