The high price of negligence

By The Easterner , Editorial Board

Earlier versions of this editorial ran in issues 3, 8 and 17 of Volume 101 of The Easterner. It has been updated accordingly for the most recent mass shooting that took place on May 18, which killed 10 people in a city in southeast Texas.


A 17-year-old student began firing a shotgun and a .38 revolver inside Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, which is about 30 miles southeast of Houston.

According to the Washington Post, this is the 16th shooting at a school during school hours this year, the most at this point in any year since 1999, the year of the Columbine High School massacre. The Washington Post also reported that more than twice as many students have been killed in school shootings this year (29) than people who have been killed serving in the military (13).

The two weapons used to gun down eight students and two teachers were owned by the father of the shooter, who claimed in a phone interview with The Wall Street Journal that his son was “mistreated at school,” which is what he believes is behind his son’s rampage. There are of course ways and means to combat bullying and mistreatment, but shooting up your school out of a fit of rage is not and will never be even close to an acceptable solution.

And in the direct aftermath of a tragedy like this, certain politicians and public figures will urge citizens to mourn for the victims, and send out thoughts and prayers. Don’t get us wrong—thoughts and prayers are important. These victims, their families and the community they were a part of will never be the same after such a horrific event. But thoughts and prayers are not the solution that this country needs in order to enact actual and tangible change.

Because the gun toll on America is simply too massive. In 2014, 11,961 Americans were killed in gunshot homicides, according to the F.B.I. That means the death rate from such homicides is 31 per million people. In all, 27 people are shot dead each day in the United States. For reference: In Germany, the death rate from gun homicides is two per million people, or as common as being killed by a falling object in the US.

To take it a step further: If we were to wait the proper amount of time to mourn, we’d never get anything done. The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as incidents where three or more people were shot, regardless if anyone was killed or not. In 2017, the Gun Violence Archive reported 346 mass shootings in the United States, nearly one per day. This year, there have been 101 reported mass shootings in the first 136 days of the year, for an average of about three mass shootings every four days.

The worst part of the Santa Fe tragedy is the frequency. Of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history (since 1949) where at least eight people were killed, 23 of the 34 shootings have happened in the last 20 years. The five most deadliest mass shootings have all occurred within the past 11 years, and the Columbine High School massacre is no longer in the top 10 of the most deadly mass shootings.

That is horrifying. But in a way they’re starting to feel normal. And that’s not okay. Gun homicides are not and should not be commonplace in a civilized society. But in America, they are as common as the sun rising in the east and setting in the west.

When a tragedy like this occurs, the response from citizens is to tell each other “not to politicize” the event, which is the wrong mindset to have. For some, when politics is brought up, an image of talking heads arguing nonsensically comes to mind. But we need to stop using ‘politicizing’ as some sort of slur.

Instead of thoughts and prayers, politicians should be focused on taking definitive action. And citizens need to ensure their politicians do so. Politics are precisely what have and will enact change.

And there is a question that we all need to be asking ourselves—why is America the only Western society with this damning problem?

Yes, we should mourn. But we also need to act. As it has become abundantly and painstakingly clear with this latest tragedy, prayers are not enough. They never have been.

“This has been going on too long in our country too many years, too many decades now,” said President Donald Trump following the shooting.

So do something about it, Mr. President. History will not look kindly on those who were satisfied with the status quo, who declined to raise even a finger to try and protect its citizens from slaughter after slaughter.

It doesn’t have to be like this, but somehow and some way it is. This is the America we live in, for better or worse.