187,000 Students!

Today saw hundreds of thousands of Americans attend March For Our Lives events across the nation. But 187,000 isn’t the number of students who may have attended such events. That number will never be known.

187,000 is the number of students who have witnessed and survived school gun incidents since Columbine. We tend to emphasize the horrendous numbers of students who have been killed…and the much larger number of those who have been injured…but we have tended to ignore the survivors.

Over the past two decades, a handful of massacres that have come to define school shootings in this country are almost always remembered for the students and educators slain. Death tolls are repeated so often that the numbers and places become permanently linked.

What those figures fail to capture, though, is the collateral damage of this uniquely American crisis. Beginning with Columbine in 1999, more than 187,000 students attending at least 193 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus during school hours, according to a year-long Washington Post analysis. This means that the number of children who have been shaken by gunfire in the places they go to learn exceeds the population of Eugene, Ore., or Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Many are never the same. [emphasis mine]

So beyond thoughts and prayers, what have we offered the survivors? I know we often hear that schools provide grief counselors after tragic events but for how long? How effective are they? And do we provide the necessary support going forward that many youth may need?

We don’t do enough to acknowledge the collateral damage of gun violence. We are asking too many to carry this burden.” (said Sherry Hamby, a clinical psychologist.)

Over the years our elected officials have given lip service to providing mental health care to our veterans, but the reality falls far short and many still suffer from PTSD. After each gun tragedy they talk about keeping weapons away from the mentally ill…yet without comprehensive health care nationwide…that will remain an elusive goal.

So there is probably no safety net for these 187,000 student survivors…because…well we haven’t helped those in obvious distress…how/why can we help those we don’t consider damaged? Those that we don’t even see?

It’s not different than kids living in chronic war zones.”

Ah well…we can make schools safe! We can arm teachers! We can provide more police! We can stash guns in safes within the school that are available to staff and faculty. Florida has suggested this. The president has suggested this. The NRA would wet their pants if this became the policy of the land. We can make schools min-fortresses or subject students to TSA style searches every day.

But given the ineffectiveness of on school law enforcement in the past, it isn’t a panacea now. And if you look at the statistics of how often trained police officers actually hit their targets…it’s silly to think civilians could be more successful…to say nothing of the risk of hitting innocent bystanders.

The Post analysis found that gun violence has occurred in at least 68 schools that employed a police officer or security guard. In all but a few of those incidents, the shootings ended before law enforcement of any kind interceded — often because the gunfire lasted only a few seconds.

So obviously advertising an armed security presence is not a deterrent. And sometimes it may even be an invitation to a shooter who wants to end his life in a blaze of glory. And his is the correct pronoun here…almost all perpetrators are male.

So what do we do? Very few Americans want to abolish the Second Amendment. I don’t want anyone coming for our 30.06 deer rifles or our hunting and sport shotguns. But there is no reason to have AR-15 style arms in civilian hands. There is no reason to have large capacity magazines in the wild. The president is still talking about banning bump stocks months after the Las Vegas shooting…and there is almost no opposition to it…why wasn’t it done last November? More and better background checks? Most of the nation agrees! Waiting periods? Common sense tells us that’s a good idea…and I doubt that sportsmen or hunters spend the kind of money a modern hunting rifle costs on a whim. And where are the programs to help the mentally ill? Where are the processes to keep guns out of their hands? Where are the programs to secure firearms owned by domestic abusers? This isn’t that hard once there is the will to do it.

As I’ve said on this site before. We need to support…but stay out of the way on this one. The young people have got it covered. Let’s listen to them. Let’s pressure our electeds or elect someone else. And I expect the young people speaking out today will have the resilience to outlast the troglodytes in office! This is their day!!

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