Editorials, Opinion

Will the cycle end?

Another mass shooting. Another school shooting. Another senseless tragedy.

What is there left for us to say that someone else hasn’t already said?

Thirty-one people, including more than a dozen children, can be gunned down in less than two weeks, and yet nothing will change. America is well-practiced in offering the symbolic “thoughts and prayers” — so overused now that the once sincere condolences ring hollow — and then doing nothing.

Well, not exactly nothing. There will be heated debates, occasionally bordering on vicious arguments, about how to stop the next one.

Fill schools with armed guards and metal detectors? Sure, and make students feel like real prisoners in a place most of them already don’t want to be. Plus, the likelihood of an armed resource officer stopping a school shooting is statistically lower than the likelihood of an armed resource officer overreacting to typical teenage behavior.

Arm teachers with guns? Sure, because relying on the mythical “good guy with a gun” has been so successful in the past. Teachers are there to teach — not play John McClane from Die Hard.

Ban all assault-style rifles and high capacity magazines? Sure, but that will never happen. Guns have become so entrenched in American culture that they’re like a cancer that’s metastasized throughout the body: You’ll never be able to remove it all, and the attempt to may be more damaging than the disease.

Enact and enforce commonsense gun reform, like universal background checks and gun storage laws? Sure, but again, that will never happen. The National Rifle Association and gun fanatics hold outsized power in American governance, which means even widely supported reforms will never be implemented. 

Do more to address mental health? Sure, but this misses the point. While mental health is a national crisis, few mass/rampage shooters have any kind of diagnosable mental illness. Unfortunately, “white supremacist,” “racist” and “entitled a**hole” are not in the DSM. Responding to every mass shooting with “we need more mental health services” does little more than stigmatize mental illness even more than it already is — and excuse the actions of the shooter as something beyond their control when committing mass murder is very much a deliberate decision.

Bring religion back into schools? Sure, because alienating and vilifying non-Christian students is a great way to prevent disgruntled current or former students from wanting to shoot up the school. Because — let’s be real for a second — when people say “religion,” what they actually mean is “Christianity only.” The impulse to bring a sense of community back into our schools isn’t a bad one, but putting God in the classroom won’t accomplish that.

So what is the solution?

All of the above? None of the above? Any of the above? Some combination of the above?

We may never know. Because in this endless cycle of gun deaths, we never get past the “thoughts and prayers” and “argue about guns” stages before yet another shooting happens.

Every time we, as a country, say “never again” and “it’s time to do something,” it always happens again and we never do anything. We’re not optimistic this time will be any different.