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Rising incidence of mass shootings!

(Concluding part)

Published : Thursday, 16 January, 2020 at 12:00 AM  Count : 130

Nazarul Islam

Nazarul Islam

On October 27, 2018, a gunman, identified as Robert Bowers, armed with an assault rifle and several handguns, entered the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, PA and reportedly yelled, "All Jews Must Die" as he opened fire. Described as the deadliest attack against the Jewish community in the U S, eleven congregants were killed; four police officers and two others were wounded.

On February 14, 2018, seventeen people--including students and adults--were killed in a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The gunman, Nikolas Cruz, was a nineteen-year-old former student of the school. Authorities reported that he was armed with a semiautomatic assault rifle and countless magazines. People were killed both inside and outside the school. The Parkland shooting is among the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern US history.

In recent years, there have been a variety of mass shootings. On October 1, 2017, a gunman at a Las Vegas hotel fired a barrage of gunfire into a crowd of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, resulting in the killing of 59 people and injuring hundreds of others.

On June 12, 2016, a gunman named Omar Mateen, an American-born man, pledged his alleged allegiance to the notorious ISIS. He then went into a gay nightclub in Orlando, FL and shot and killed 49 people and injured 53 others.
Again on December 2, 2015, two assailants opened fire at a centre for people with disabilities in San Bernadino, California; 14 people were killed and 21 others were wounded.

That deadly mass shooting came on the heels of another tragic event on November 27, 2015, in which Robert Lewis Dear embarked upon a deadly shooting spree at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Two people and a police officer were killed and nine others were wounded.
Four years ago, on October 1, 2015, a mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon left nine students dead and another nine injured. The gunman, Christopher Harper-Mercer, killed himself after an exchange of gunfire with the police.

Obviously, mass shootings have raised a lot of feelings that range from sadness and heartbreak to anger and frustration. They also usually lead to a public conversation about gun laws and what our government can and should do. In 2012 after the mass shooting of twenty young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, President Obama proposed legislation to overhaul gun laws. The proposals included universal background checks, new and expanded assault weapon and high-capacity magazine bans and other measures to prevent mass shootings. Several months later, it failed to pass the Senate.

Typical mass-casualty school shootings are neither a new phenomenon nor a type of violence unique to American schools.  Though American school shootings predate the Civil war, the first mass casualty school shooting in an American K12 school we have identified took place in a Newburgh, New York Parochial School on April 19, 1891.  A 70-year-old man shot five students with a shotgun in this attack.  Just more than a decade later, an elementary teacher shot and killed three trustees of a Mennonite School in Canada before going across the street and shooting their three children to death.

Tragically, mass casualty school shootings have also occurred in Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Germany, India, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, and Scotland, just to name a few countries.  School and police officials have expressed concerns about school shootings in every one of the more than two dozen countries our analysts have worked in.

To dispel another common myth, attackers have used firearms, edged weapons, gasoline, swords, clubs, hatchets, explosives, a homemade flamethrower, and other weapons to carry out mass casualty school attacks in the United States and many other countries as far back as 1764. In fact, there is no region of the world that has been left touched by the types of extreme violence in K12 schools.

While many pundits, special interest groups, vendors, elected officials and individuals with the very best of intention suggest an array of simple solutions, there are actually no examples of any singular approach that has been proven to eliminate mass casualty violence in schools.   And still, while it is a healthy and natural part of our culture to discuss and debate potential strategies to further reduce the number of homicides in our schools, it is extremely important that schools do not overlook the measures that have been repeatedly used to successfully avert planned school shootings while seeking new protection measures.

Our schools may consider an array of new theoretical but as yet, have not validated their approaches. It is but imperative that student threat assessment and management, suicide prevention and other proven behavioural prevention measures be more widely utilized.   While there are no simple answers nor 100% effective approaches to prevent school shootings, there are approaches that have been used to successfully avert hundreds of planned and imminent school shootings.

Furthermore , while every school homicide is one too many, we cannot lose sight of the fact that multiple planned school shootings are successfully averted for every successfully carried out attack.  While we continually hear about the "good old days" when mass casualty school attacks were not a concern, history provides many examples of horrific attacks from colonial times to the present.  

The 24/7 news cycle and the development of the internet make us painfully and almost instantly aware of horrific attacks that in the past did not receive national attention.  Keeping in mind that there are more K12 students in U.S. K12 schools each day than there are human beings in Canada and Australia combined can also provide a more accurate perspective.   As with child molestation by school employees and staggering numbers of fatalities from drunk driving prior to the efforts of Mothers Against Drunk Driving to educate us, we are far more aware of homicides in K12 schools than we were when a school board member carried out a deadly bombing of the Bath School in Michigan killing 43 students and staff in 1927.

It is also important to remember that our nation's most lethal K12 attack occurred at the Our Lady of Angels Sacred Hearts school in Chicago in 1958 when a troubled elementary child killed 95 students and staff with a book of matches.

As we make sincere efforts to seek new ways to make the America's schools safer, these have remained at serious risk to our students and those who educate them-for us to invest considerable time, energy and fiscal resources on theoretical measures while ignoring proven measures that have repeatedly prevented deadly school shootings and bombings over the past three decades.

Good luck America, in your continued efforts!

The writer is a former educator based in Chicago

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