The wrong questions

We’re asking all the wrong questions about the shooting last week at a Michigan high school that killed four students and injured seven, some critically:

Here’s the right question: Why can just about any American adolescent get his hands on a 9-millimeter semiautomatic pistol? Furthermore, why do we no longer even think this question is worth asking?

Why did he do it? It’s natural to wonder, but it really doesn’t matter. It’s not like understanding the warped psychology of one school shooter will help us stop the next one. There are 60 million K-12 students in this country; no one should be surprised that a few are capable of horrific actions.

Let’s pay attention to the students who died and were wounded, not the one who shot them.

Would metal detectors have mattered? Maybe, but maybe not. They’re expensive, disruptive and easy to bypass, and they send a message that students aren’t trusted. If schools want to install metal detectors, they should carefully weigh the pros and cons. It shouldn’t be a knee-jerk decision.

Should school officials have seen the warning signs and … what exactly? Sent him home and let him return the next day or week, maybe with a weapon? Had him locked up for writing disturbing notes to himself? Require that he get counseling? In fact, that’s what they did.

Hindsight is 20-20, but it sounds like the school had no cause to think the kid had a gun and would use it.

But the United States is awash in firearms, and that makes it easy for young people to get their hands on them. According to some analyses, there are 120 guns in the U.S. for every 100 people. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but 40% of its civilian-owned firearms, ABC News reported.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, so far this year, there have been at least 144 incidents of gunfire on U.S. school grounds, resulting in 28 deaths. But school shootings, as terrifying as they are, don’t begin to tell the story. Most gun violence affecting kids occurs outside of school. More than 3,000 children and teens are shot and killed and more than 15,000 shot and wounded each year.

Most kids who kill people, intentionally or accidentally, get their guns from their homes or the homes of relatives or friends. Typically, the adults who own the guns don’t secure them.

“We have to prevent kids from getting their hands on guns in the first place, and that starts with secure gun storage,” Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts said last week in a news release. “It’s not complicated, and it’s not controversial.”

The involuntary manslaughter charges filed against the Michigan school shooter’s parents won’t solve the problem, but they send an appropriate message. The parents bought their 15-year-old son the handgun that he used as a Christmas present, according to news reports.

They bought it on Nov. 26, the day after Thanksgiving, when sporting goods stores were heavily promoting sales of firearms. On that same day, almost 188,000 instant background checks were performed through the FBI, a rough proxy for the number of guns sold.

This gives a whole new meaning to the term Black Friday.


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