Peck: Is there a solution to mass shootings?

David Peck, Lovell Chronicle

Billings Gazette recently caught our eye: “Is mass death now accepted in America?”

The Associated Press analysis that followed stated that, as Americans, we have become numb to death on a large scale, from the more than 1 million deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the seemingly endless string of mass shootings in our nation.

It’s not that we don’t care, but in a nation of 335 million people, it’s hard to come to grips, emotionally, with the non-stop reports unless it’s in your neck of the woods. How many times have we heard a person say, “I never thought it would happen here?”

In the case of COVID, we all know someone, even a close friend or family member, who has died during the pandemic, but as death rates have waned and millions survive the disease, even with new variants popping up, many people have simply reached the point that they’re not willing to stop living life anymore. We’re rolling the dice, so to speak.

The mass shootings are more disturbing. No other developed nation on earth experiences the kind of gun violence we have seen in the United States in recent years, but the issue is so politically charged that our leaders seem utterly incapable of dealing with it or taking any action at all. Indeed, no one can agree what even could or should be done.

There are now so many shootings that we can’t even remember them all. It’s almost like the Monty Python skit about the black death where a fellow walks by homes with a cart calling out “Bring out your dead” except that the carnage is very real and horrifying, with lives shattered on a huge scale.

Uvalde, Buffalo, Boulder, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Pittsburgh, Santa Fe, Parkland, Sutherland Springs, Las Vegas, Orlando, Sandy Hook, Aurora, Fort Hood, Virginia Tech, Columbine – the list goes on and on.

The little kids slaughtered last week at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, seems especially heartbreaking – 19 fourth graders shot to death in their classroom, plus
two teachers.

One TV interview sticks out. A little boy from another classroom in Uvalde told the reporter his mother hugged him so tightly that she nearly squeezed the air out of him, and when asked what he told his mom upon their reunion, he replied simply, “I told her I left my water bottle in
the classroom.”

Innocence on display. Innocence lost. According to various media reports, there have been 213 mass shootings – any shooting with four or more persons shot or killed – in the first 21 weeks of 2022. That’s 10 per week. No wonder we’re numb.

In most cases, the violence is well planned, and in the wake of nearly every shooting, as mass shooting researcher Mark Follman put it, there is a trail of behavioral warning signs.

Certainly, there is no easy solution, though many opinions ranging from limiting firearms to better security and from more background checks to better mental health screening and treatment. Many have staked out a firm, seemingly unbending position.

But as a society we must do something, and just maybe the tragic Uvalde school shooting will shock policy makers into actually working together to find solutions, to communicate better in an effort to reduce the rate of violence.

We must believe that, in America, wise and thoughtful people can somehow collaborate to find a
better way.


This editorial was published by the Lovell Chronicle on June 2, 2022.


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