The massacre of 26 children and adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The slaughter of a dozen people in a movie theater in Colorado. The rampage killing of 32 students at Virginia Tech.
So many lives snuffed out.
Mother Jones, a nonprofit news organization that specializes in investigative, political and social-justice reporting, wrote that since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states. Twenty-five have occurred since 2006. And seven took place just last year.
Let’s focus on school shootings. A mass shooting is generally defined as the death of four or more, so the figures above leave out lots of incidents in which one to three staff or students are killed — including the three who died at Chardon High School last year. And many times, the smaller the number, the less media coverage. As if the death of one or two children doesn’t really matter in the scope of things.
For those who have never buried a child, it’s impossible to completely understand the pain. How do you explain an ache so horrific it seems to crush your lungs? The death of one child is as important to a loved one as the massacre of many.
It seems we have become so desensitized to such horror that when we learn of one or two high school or college students dying at the hands of a gunman, we shake our heads in disgust and move on. It’s not until we see the kind of carnage that happened in Newtown, Conn., or hear the asinine remarks Chardon shooter T.J. Lane made in a courtroom to his victims’ families last week, that our senses awaken.
“As a society, we have undoubtedly become desensitized to violence. Movies, television, music and video games all offer graphic displays of violence that are readily accessible …” noted Diana Barkman, therapist at Kessler Psychological Services in Hartville. “Being … stimulated on a regular basis, by violent media, leads to a gradual loss of our initial responses of shock and dismay.”
Perhaps this is the new normal. Unless it’s something that affects us directly or snuffs out the lives of 20 babies who are just learning how to count to 100 by ones, twos, fives and tens, it doesn’t remain with us much longer than the time it took to watch the news.
Still, Barkman doesn’t believe this is irreversible. Schools recognizing that bullying is abnormal is a step in the right direction. But that’s another column.
What other action can we take, to do even a small part to stop the violence?
There is a heated debate taking place about gun laws in the wake of Newtown. And while politicians chew over the issue, guns and ammunition have been flying off the shelves. People are stocking up in the event there are greater limits on gun and ammunition sales in the future.
Brimfield Police Chief David Oliver is opposed to mandates that permit gun ownership only under certain conditions set forth by the government. But there are some precautions, he said, that gun owners need to take.
“Most responsible gun owners, including me, lock their guns up,” he said. “I think that’s an important thing to remember.”
So before buying a gun, please buy a safe. Not a gun cabinet with glass doors to show off your Colt .45 or Grandpa’s Winchester .94. Unless you are James Bond, it’s really not a status symbol to show off your arsenal anymore.
Buy a safe that a curious child, a psychologically disturbed neighbor or a burglar can’t pry open. The heavy-duty kind that’s bolted to the floor and would take a stick of dynamite to open.
The kind that could save even one child’s life.
Kim Hone-McMahan can be reached at 330-996-3742 or firstname.lastname@example.org.