Rosemary Westwood: A local community once again fields blame for school shooting
The responsibility to curb gun violence has been downloaded from those with the power to make deep and meaningful changes onto those least empowered to do so.
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The mayor of Broward County, Florida is wondering what his community did wrong.
“All of us are shaken to our core, to be honest,” Beam Furr told NPR on Thursday morning, less than 24 hours after a 17-year-old boy brought a gun to his old high school and opened fire, killing at least 17 people and wounding more in the deadliest U.S. school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012.
“I’ll probably be meeting with parents,” Furr continued, his voice wavering, “and then kind of going back over what we missed. What can we do better. How do we find ways to makes sure this doesn’t happen with other kids, and other parents.”
They aren’t bad questions, per se. And who wouldn’t be wondering exactly that, if put in Furr’s shoes?
But those questions are emblematic of the inordinate burden and blame American gun violence places on individuals who stand relatively little chance of actually solving the deadly societal trend and saving lives.
Already, there have been 30 mass shootings in this country this year, defined as four or more shot or killed, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Its data shows 1,800 people have died from guns since January. The problems of gun violence and mass shootings are so pervasive, that some Americans worry the country is becoming too desensitized to act.
In this case, there may indeed have been something done to change this outcome, as is so often suggested in mass shooting events. Early reports show Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter, had a history of anti-social behaviour and mental health treatment, and yet purchased his AR-15 rifle legally. He reportedly posted social media photos with guns and commented on YouTube that he wanted to be a “professional school shooter” — a sentiment that was reported to the FBI.
One might, as some are, blame the FBI for not stopping Cruz (the agency was also blamed after the Las Vegas shooting for not doing more). One could, as President Donald Trump did at 6:12 a.m. on Thursday morning, take to Twitter to chastise Cruz’s community at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School for not reporting him as dangerous.
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” Trump tweeted. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
It’s unlikely that Trump, a strident supporter of the National Rifle Association and favourite of the gun lobby, would actually approve of turning in teens because they pose with guns. But the implication is clear, one repeated on Fox and Friends, that kids — the same ones targeted by a volley of bullets, who were texting their families from a locked-down school messages of love and appreciation — were too partly responsible for their own tragedy.
And that is a highly unfair and entirely illogical burden.
The truth is that the responsibility to curb gun violence — so pervasive in U.S. society, and so devastating to those it impacts — has been downloaded from those with the power to make deep and meaningful changes onto those least empowered to do so. Guilt and blame handed from elected politicians, onto the shoulders of a small town mayor and a bunch of teenagers.
“Your suffering is our burden also,” Trump told Americans during a live broadcast Thursday. But the truth is quite the opposite. Weeks after the Las Vegas shooting last year — the deadliest on record — politicians had lost interest in any new gun-related legislation, while the suffering of those impacted undoubtedly continues.
“School shootings happen all the time, and then the news just forgets about them,” Ryan Kadel, a 17-year-old student who survived the Florida shooting, told the Washington Post.
Kadel’s school will not have the luxury to forget. Nor the families of those who died, nor those who will live, but were wounded. The ones who apparently should have done more to save themselves, just like every other community wracked by a mass shooting.