It has been reported that the shooting Tuesday at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, was the first fatal school shooting this year but the 13th incident involving a school and a gun in which shots were fired, in keeping with America’s commitment to guns.
I want to caution student journalists not to speculate on the meaning of all of this, as violence can be hard to prevent, especially since schools are very much focused on safety, which seems to have no effect on these extreme cases, and on learning, which leaves little time for crime fighting. Furthermore, most of the victims or perpetrators are minor children and in very distraught situations, especially after a shooting. Any words they say are likely to be more a reaction to a violent situation than the contents of their hearts.
In many cases, students are experiencing mental health issues and our communities have failed to provide for their needs. In other cases, substance abuse or bullying may be involved. But whatever the underlying cause, which needs to be addressed, the common thread is that all of the perpetrators had access to guns.
We have almost become numb to the violence, which is sad enough. But what’s even sadder is that the reduction in attention we pay to these incidents may be indicative of a reduction in our empathy for those involved. Even if a student wasn’t shot in a school shooting incident, that child has experienced violence similar to what much older and more mature soldiers experience in combat zones.
That is a disturbing thought. Schools almost always make counselors available or give students time to recover. Marshall County High School has been cancelled, at least through Thursday and probably longer, and students in the middle and elementary schools in that district have been advised to return if they and their parents feel comfortable getting back to a normal routine.
We need to study what causes both the increase in gun violence that seems to be happening and the decrease in empathy students feel. Drug use? Violence in the media? Too many prescription drugs? Violent video games? Copycat syndrome? But studying the problem won’t give us a solution. What do you think a solution might be?
Maryland schools have had two incidents involving loaded guns so far this month, neither of which involved the gun being fired, and both of which resulted in the arrest of the student in possession of the gun:
- Excel Academy at Francis M. Wood High School, Baltimore, January 24: A loaded gun was brought to the school but not fired. The suspect, a student at the school, was arrested.
- A loaded gun was brought to Carver Vocational Technical High School in Baltimore on January 18. It was never fired, but the suspect, a student at the school, was arrested.
No loaded guns were found in or used near Illinois schools so far this year, but a BB gun was in the possession of a student at Mundelein High School and a bullet was found in a hallway at Huntley High School earlier this month, both of which resulted in the schools being locked down temporarily.
But none of these incidents rise to the definition of gun violence, which involves actually using a gun in or around a school, college, or university. Based on news reports, here are the gun violence incidents so far this year that involved schools:
- Shots were fired into New Start High School in Seattle, Washington, on January 4. No injuries were reported, but the school was placed on lockdown.
- Shots were fired at an occupied school bus on January 5 in Forest City, Iowa. A man faces a felony charge of intimidation with a dangerous weapon after allegedly using an air rifle to shoot out the windows, and no one was injured, according to the school district.
- A 13-year-old student shot and killed himself in a bathroom at Coronado Elementary School in Sierra Vista, Arizona, on January 9.
- Gunshots were reported on the campus of Cal State University, San Bernardino, on January 10. No injuries were reported, but the entire campus was placed on lockdown.
- A 21-year-old man killed himself in an apartment building on the campus of Jackson State University in Jackson, Mississippi, on January 12. The shooting was said to involve an accidental discharge of the gun.
- A dormitory and vehicle were shot during a shootout in a parking lot at Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, on January 15. No one was injured, and no arrests had been made.
- A 32-year-old bank robbery suspect was cornered in a field at Montpelier High School in Montpelier, Vermont, on January 16. He shot and killed himself; the school was placed on lockdown. No gun violence occurred inside the school, and no students were targeted.
- A student fired gunshots at the ground during a fight with another student at Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on January 19. No one was injured and no arrests were immediately reported.
- A North Carolina University college football player was shot and killed during a party at The Barn, on the campus of Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Najee Ali Baker, who died on January 20 at a hospital as a result of gunshot wounds, was 21.
- Shots were fired during a fight after a basketball game at Carver High School in Birmingham, Alabama, on January 20. No one was hit, but police recovered a weapon.
- Shots were fired during lunch at Net Charter High School in New Orleans, Louisiana, on January 22. Police said someone drove a dark pickup truck by the school and fired. No injuries were reported, and the school was temporarily placed on lockdown.
- A 15-year-old girl was shot in the cafeteria of Italy High School in Italy, Texas, on January 22. She is recovering, and the 16-year-old male student who allegedly shot her was arrested.
- A 15-year-old student shot and killed two other students at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, on January 23. The suspect was arrested. Although more than a dozen student victims were injured by gunfire, with some listed in critical condition one day after the shooting, Preston Ryan Cope, 15, and Bailey Nicole Holt, 15, were killed.