Not answering the question.

Dec 14 2012 Published by under Current events, Passing thoughts

Today there was another mass shooting at a school.

I am beyond tired of mass shootings at schools. Not just because I have kids in school, not just because I spent 26+ years of my own life as a student, not just because I work at a school (which is a big part of what a university really is). Schools are where people come to learn, to build skills, to find out who they are or who they want to be.

Schools are supposed to be safe.

As I was driving home from my school, I was listening to experts being asked on the radio how a school shooting like the one today could happen. Obviously, the follow-up question would be something along the lines of how, knowing what causes it, could we prevent more shootings like this one?

And the experts, down the line, said that really, this is an extremely rare event. Mostly, this kind of thing doesn't happen.

Which is probably true, but that wasn't the question.

Rare or not, this kind of event is utterly devastating. Do you know what caused it, or what contributed to it? Or is it an event for which you have just as little knowledge about causes, and effective prevention, as the rest of us?

The experts were also asked how parents should discuss this news with their kids. Here too, down the line, they said that parents should reassure kids that schools are very safe places.

But here again, that's not really the question our kids are asking when we talk about people showing up at a school with guns and killing lots of people.

What they want to know is, "Can you keep me safe? Can you promise that no one will show up at my school and do something like this?"

As much as we want to tell them yes, I don't think we can, not without lying. If there's a way to keep this promise, I'm not sure we know enough to do it. And maybe, even if we knew all there was to know about the causes, we still couldn't keep these shootings from happening.

That's a bitter pill to swallow, but if that's how the landscape looks to the people who study mass shootings, I kind of wish they'd tell us that rather than repeating how safe schools are.

8 responses so far

  • Dario Ringach says:

    "Can you promise that no one will show up at my school and do something like this?"

    No, we cannot promise that without lying.

    But here is one thing we can promise -- that we will do everything in our power to try to understand the causes and prevent this from happening ever again.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    You have noticed that almost all mass shootings occur in gun free zones, have you not?

  • Ray Silva says:

    Like many of your tweets. Just checked out your blog & pleased to find we share misspent chemistry past lives. Philosophy is my lifelong passion. Couldn't convince myself to spend years to get PhD and earn peanuts if able to get job at all (wise warning from APA years ago). Just curious if you have ever read Susan Haack's philosophical work.

  • Jim Thomerson wrote:

    You have noticed that almost all mass shootings occur in gun free zones, have you not?

    If we want to play correlation/causation games, have you noticed almost all mass shootings involve white males?

  • Pat says:

    As we mourn those poor babies in Newtown; along with taking our own political action, considering adding to your emails "Please send your senators, representative and President Obama a note that says that if they fight for gun control, you will have their backs."

    We are so sad but along with good thoughts and prayers we have to make a commitment that we will make it harder for this to happen again and than means gun control.

  • DJMH says:

    Yeah, if only kindergartners were allowed to pack heat, this would never have happened. Pass more concealed carry laws, Jim! OBVIOUSLY the answer.

    The whole thing is heartbreaking. It's true that mass shootings are a tiny percentage of all gun deaths. Nonetheless, they make every single one of us fearful for ourselves and our families, in a way that a gun suicide (half of all gun deaths) does not. So yes, I think we should be driven to action.

    England tightened its gun laws after a school shooting in 1996, and interestingly they haven't suffered a whole lot of gun massacres since. Wonder what that means.
    link here

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