A non-profit American based entity, known as Gun Violence Archive, cites that there have been at least 30 “mass shooting” incidents in the U.S. since New Year’s Day. This is a staggering statistic. The fact that there are several interpretations of what constitutes a mass shooting is equally staggering. Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as: “a single incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are shot and/or killed at the same general time and location.”
Depending on which American news media source you consult, and what criteria you use to define “school shooting,” there have been no fewer than 18 firearm related incidents on U.S school campuses in 2018 to date. Collectively, that is more than in all other countries combined in the past ten years.
While many of these school-based incidents did not result in casualties or deaths, the ones that did, such as the Valentine’s Day tragedy in Parkland Florida, have once more raised the serious call for gun control in America.
In a tweet made on February 14th American Senator Bernie Sanders stated: “Maybe, just maybe, after 18 school shootings in America in just 43 days of 2018, Congress might want to consider common-sense gun safety legislation and save innocent lives.” I thought this might happen after the Las Vegas massacre, where 58 people, including four Canadians, were killed, and 800 other people were wounded.
Alberta, as we know all too well, is not immune to gun violence. With the tragedy in Taber, which came eight days after the Columbine High massacre in 1999, our schools stepped up lockdown drills and school jurisdictions proactively offered a variety of crisis response training. As an educator I have lead many such drills. At best, these drills seek to preserve life and mitigate collateral damage as much as is possible in the event of an active shooter.
Having visited several U.S schools, many of which have airport style security like metal detectors, I can assure you that the feeling of safety that I have when in our Canadian schools, was compromised just thinking how normative gun violence is now in the U.S.A. The recent images of the students in Florida, exiting their school with hands on their heads or hands on shoulders of their peers, is haunting.
The tragic events at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which took 17 lives and saw 14 more injured, reveals that the ongoing offering of ‘thoughts and prayers’ from elected officials each time a horror like this happens, pales in comparison to the voices of those impacted by gun violence calling for genuine gun control reform. The right to keep and bear arms in the U.S.A. is a constitutional right. With high school students raising angry and saddened voices towards Washington to really do something this time, the NRA faithful counter with a call for school administrators to carry side arms. That is simply ridiculous!
How many more needless deaths must there be in order for U.S lawmakers to take decisive and genuine action to mitigate more mass shootings? America must look gun control straight in the barrel. It is high calibre action, not talk that is needed now more than ever because the truth is: talk, just like ammunition, is cheap!
Tim Cusack is an educator, writer and member of the naval reserve.