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Opinion: How Many More?

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Feb. 14, 2018. Valentine’s Day. It’s supposed to be a happy occasion — a day filled with love, romance, and affection (at least for some people). Except that this year, 17 students and adults in Parkland, Florida, were killed in America’s eighth official school shooting in 2018, according to CNN. It’s been two months, and there have already been eight school shootings this year. No other countries around the world even come close to that number. And, once again, the suspect is a deranged teenager.

What struck me was the fact that the suspect, a 19-year-old boy named Nikolas Cruz, was able to legally buy an assault rifle. The gun, a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 .223, was purchased at Sunrise Tactical Supply, according to USA Today. Cruz is not legally old enough to buy a drink, but he can buy a deadly weapon. Somewhere that doesn’t add up.

President Trump blamed the shooting on mental illness, which could have been a part of the problem and certainly that needs help as well, but according to CNN, he “signed a measure nixing a regulation aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of some severely mentally ill people.” He’s digging himself into a deep, dark hole, and if changes aren’t made soon, who knows what will happen? President Trump and many other government officials send out “thoughts and prayers” after a shooting, but when will they actually do something about it? Thoughts and prayers are nice, but kids are going to keep getting killed until this is addressed.

Rifle manufacturers say that guns are not the problem. Republican officials agree — like Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin who, in response to calls for stricter gun regulations, tweeted, “You can’t regulate evil.”

President Trump refuses to comment, instead resorting to simply sending “condolences and prayers,” because they are so effective. Republican political commentator Tomi Lahren tweeted, “Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gun owner agenda? My goodness. This isn’t about a gun it’s about another lunatic.”

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, received one of the biggest donations — he was No. 3 — from the NRA in the 2016 election cycle. Florida now has very relaxed gun laws. The NRA, of course, simply sits back and waits for gun purchases to rise after school shootings. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the association’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre told CNN.

You don’t drive out hate and murder, with hate and murder. How many more kids have to die before people start to realize that guns are the problem, not just the shooters? How many more kids have to be shot? According to Slate, 297 people died in school shootings between 1980 and 2012 when the Sandy Hook shooting took place. How many more funerals? How many more weeping mothers?

People say that guns are not the problem — that even if guns are prohibited, murderers will find a way. Well then, let it be so. Let them try to find a way. Let them try to kill 17 people in a matter of minutes with a butter knife — I’m tired of it being easy for them.

In Australia, they had one mass shooting in 1996 that left 35 people dead and then immediately enforced strict gun laws. According to Slate, the laws “prohibited private sales, required that all weapons be individually registered to their owners, and required that gun buyers present a ‘genuine reason’ for needing each weapon at the time of the purchase. (Self-defense did not count.)” They have not had a mass shooting since, and the firearm homicide rate fell by 59 percent and the firearm suicide rate by 65 percent, in the decade after the law was introduced, according to the Washington Post.  

Australia had one mass shooting tragedy, they did something about it, and it hasn’t happened again. America could do the same. But what about the Second Amendment, you ask? The right to bear arms? Well, keep in mind that was written at a time when slaves counted as three-fifths of a person. Maybe it’s time to rethink things. My right, and any kid’s right, to survive a day at school overrides anyone’s right to own whatever gun they want. No question.

There’s another significant division that’s further preventing change. If the shooter was a person of color, I believe there would have been calls for bans, for a wall, for heavier police enforcement. The shooter would have immediately been called a “terrorist” because people see persons of color associated with terrorism so frequently. But when the shooter is white, we must dig into the person’s background to find some sort of diagnosis as to why a white person would do something like this.

After the terrorist attack in London last September, President Trump tweeted, “the travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” After the Las Vegas shooting, he tweeted, “My warmest condolences and sympathies to the victims and families of the terrible Las Vegas shooting.” After a terror attack by a Muslim at Ohio State in November 2016, Fox News political commentator Tomi Lahren tweeted, “Another radical Muslim attack. Unfreaking acceptable.” However, after the Vegas shooting, she never once mentioned anything about race, even though clearly, as the shooter of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, he was a terrorist.

But surely white people cannot be terrorists, right? Surely only people of color, those who “don’t belong here,” are terrorizing America. False. According to a database compiled by The Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute, most of America’s terror attacks were committed by white men belonging to right-wing militia groups. Information from the Pew Research Center, also shows that while 36 percent of whites report that they own a gun, only about one-quarter of blacks (24 percent) and 15 percent of Hispanics say they are gun owners. White men, especially, are likely to own a gun: About one-half do, as opposed to non-white men at only 24 percent.

Whatever the color of the shooter’s skin, we need action. We need stricter gun laws. People who suffer from mental illness should not have access to guns. Teenagers should not have access to guns. If something doesn’t change soon, heartbreaking messages from teens to their parents will be all we see on social media. I don’t want that to be our America.

In case you were wondering, here’s a list of school shootings from the last 20 years according to CNN:

Feb. 14, 2018 – Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – Parkland, Florida. Former student, Nikolas Cruz, 19, opens fire with an AR-15 rifle, killing at least 17 people and injuring at least 14 others. According to law enforcement, the suspect activated a fire alarm to draw people outside to increase casualties. Cruz is arrested and charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder.

February 9, 2018 – Nashville. A high school student was shot five times in the parking lot of Pearl-Cohn High School.

February 5, 2018 – Oxon Hill, Maryland. A high school student was shot in the parking lot of Oxon Hill High. The victim was treated and later released. Police arrested two teens and said they are acquaintances of the victim.

February 1, 2018 – Los Angeles. A 15-year-old boy was shot in the head and a 15-year-old girl shot in the wrist at Sal Castro Middle School in Los Angeles, officials said. Two other students were grazed by bullets. A 12-year-old girl was booked for negligent discharge of a firearm in that shooting, which was considered “unintentional,” the Los Angeles police said.

January 31, 2018 – Philadelphia. A fight led to a shooting in the parking lot of Lincoln High School, fatally wounding a 32-year-old man.

January 23, 2018 – Benton, Kentucky. A 15-year-old student shot 16 people — killing two other 15-year-olds — at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky, authorities said. The student faces two charges of murder and 12 counts of first degree assault, authorities said.

January 22, 2018 – Italy, Texas. A 15-year-old student was wounded in a shooting at a high school in Italy, Texas, authorities said. The suspect, a 15-year-old, was quickly apprehended.

January 20, 2018 – Winston Salem, North Carolina. A Winston-Salem State University football player was shot to death at a campus party. Najee Ali Baker was killed on the campus of Wake Forest University.

Jan. 23, 2018 – Marshall County High School – Benton, Kentucky. A 15-year-old male student opens fire killing two and injuring 18 others. The suspect is arrested at the scene.

Dec. 7, 2017 – Aztec High School – Aztec, New Mexico. William Atchison shoots and kills students Casey Jordan Marquez and Francisco Fernandez. Atchison, a former student at the high school, died of what police believe to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Sept. 13, 2017 – Freeman High School – Spokane, Washington. One student is killed and three are injured in a shooting. The suspect is a sophomore at the school.

April 10, 2017 – North Park Elementary School – San Bernardino, California. Jonathan Martinez, 8, and his teacher, Karen Smith, are killed when Cedric Anderson, Smith’s estranged husband, walks into her special needs classroom and opens fire, armed with a large-caliber revolver. Two other students are wounded. Anderson then kills himself.

Sept. 28, 2016 – Townville Elementary School – Greenville, South Carolina. A 14-year-old male opens fire on the playground, wounding two children and a teacher. Jacob Hall, one of the wounded children, dies three days later. Before going to the school, the teen shot and killed his father. He is in custody.

Oct. 24, 2014 – Marysville-Pilchuck High School – Marysville, Washington. Freshman Jaylen Fryberg shoots five people in the school cafeteria, killing one. Fryberg dies of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene. A second victim dies of her injuries two days later; a third dies on October 31. A fourth victim dies on November 7, bringing the total fatalities to five, including the gunman.

June 10, 2014 – Reynolds High School – Troutdale, Oregon. Jared Padgett, 15, shoots and kills 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman in the school gym. He later takes his own life.

Dec. 13, 2013 – Arapahoe High School – Centennial, Colorado. Karl Pierson, 18, opens fire inside, critically injuring one student and then killing himself. 17-year-old Claire Davis dies on December 21, eight days after being shot.

Oct. 21, 2013 – Sparks Middle School – Sparks, Nevada. 12-year-old student Jose Reyes takes his parent’s handgun to school and shoots three, injuring two 12-year-old male students and killing Mike Landsberry, a teacher and Marine veteran. He then kills himself.

Dec. 14, 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary School – Newtown, Connecticut. Adam Lanza, 20, guns down 20 children, ages 6 and 7, and six adults, school staff and faculty, before turning the gun on himself. Investigating police later find Nancy Lanza, Adam’s mother, dead from a gunshot wound. The final count is 28 dead, including the shooter.

Feb. 27, 2012 – Chardon High School – Chardon, Ohio. Student Daniel Parmertor, 16, is killed and four others wounded when student T.J. Lane, 17, opens fire in the school. On February 28, Demetrius Hewlin, 16, dies from his wounds and Russell King Jr., 17, is declared brain dead. In March 2013, Lane is sentenced to life in prison. On September 11, 2014, Lane escapes from prison. He is captured early the next morning.

Jan. 5, 2011 – Millard South High School, Omaha, Nebraska. 17-year-old Robert Butler Jr. opens fire on Principal Curtis Case and Vice Principal Vicki Kasper. Butler then kills himself about a mile from the school. Vice principal Kasper later dies at the hospital.

Feb. 5, 2010 – Discovery Middle School, Madison, Alabama. 14-year-old Todd Brown dies after being shot in the head in a school hallway. Fellow ninth-grader Hammad Memon later pleads guilty and is sentenced to 30 years in prison.

Oct. 16, 2009 – Carolina Forest High School, Conway, South Carolina. 16-year-old student Trevor Varinecz is shot and killed by a police officer after allegedly pulling a knife and stabbing the officer.

Aug. 21, 2008 – Central High School, Knoxville, Tennessee. 15-year-old Jamar Siler shoots and kills 15-year-old Ryan McDonald. In 2011, Siler receives 30 years in prison in a plea agreement.

Jan. 3, 2007 – Henry Foss High School, Tacoma, Washington. Student Douglas Chanthabouly, 18, fatally shoots another student, Samnang Kok, 17. Chanthabouly is sentenced in 2009 to more than 23 years in prison for second-degree murder.

Oct. 2, 2006 – Georgetown Amish School, Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. 32-year-old Charles Roberts IV goes to a small Amish school and takes at least 11 girls hostage. Five girls were killed and six others wounded. Roberts then kills himself.

Sept. 29, 2006 – Weston High School, Cazenovia, Wisconsin. 15-year-old Eric Hainstock goes to school armed with a shotgun and a handgun. After a struggle with the school janitor, Hainstock shoots and kills the school principal. He is convicted of murder in August 2007 and sentenced to life in prison.

Sept. 27, 2006 – Platte Canyon High School, Bailey, Colorado. 54-year-old Duane Morrison takes six female students hostage. When SWAT teams enter the school, Morrison shoots 16-year-old Emily Keyes. Morrison then kills himself. Keyes later dies at the hospital.

Nov. 8, 2005 – Campbell County Comprehensive High School, Jacksboro, Tennessee. 15-year-old Kenneth Bartley Jr. opens fire on a principal and two assistant principals, killing one of them and critically wounding another, authorities said. In 2007, Bartley accepts a plea bargain, but his guilty plea is later vacated. In a retrial in February 2014, Bartley is found guilty of reckless homicide and not guilty of attempted first degree murder. He is sentenced to time served and released.

March 21, 2005 – Red Lake High School, Red Lake, Minnesota. 16-year-old Jeff Weise kills his grandfather and another adult, five students, a teacher and a security officer. He then kills himself.

Sept. 24, 2003 – Rocori High School – Cold Spring, Minnesota. 15-year-old Jason McLaughlin shoots and kills 17-year-old Aaron Rollins and critically injures another student. The second student dies in October. In 2005, McLaughlin is sentenced to consecutive terms of life in prison for first-degree murder and 12 years for second-degree murder.

April 24, 2003 – Red Lion Area Junior High School – Red Lion, Pennsylvania. 14-year-old James Sheets brings a revolver to school and kills his principal, Eugene Segro, and then himself.

March 5, 2001 – Santana High School – Santee, California. 15-year-old Charles “Andy” Williams kills two classmates, a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old, and injures 13. Williams is sentenced in 2002 to at least 50 years in prison.

May 26, 2000 – Lake Worth Community Middle School – Lake Worth, Florida. 13-year-old Nathaniel Brazill, after being sent home for misbehaving, returns to school and shoots and kills his teacher Barry Grunow. Brazill is sentenced to 28 years in prison.

Feb. 29, 2000 – Buell Elementary School – Mount Morris Township, Michigan. An unnamed six-year-old boy shoots and kills a six-year-old playmate, Kayla Rolland, at school. He is removed from his mother’s custody and put up for adoption.

Nov. 19, 1999 – Deming Middle School – Deming, New Mexico. 12-year-old Victor Cordova shoots and kills a 13-year-old classmate. He is sentenced to two years in juvenile detention.

April 20, 1999 – Columbine High School – Littleton, Colorado. 18-year-old Eric Harris and 17-year-old Dylan Klebold kill 12 fellow students and one teacher before committing suicide in the school library.

May 21, 1998 – Thurston High School – Springfield, Oregon. After killing his parents the previous day, 15-year-old Kip Kinkel returns to Thurston High armed with a rifle. He kills two students in the school cafeteria, a 16 and a 17-year-old. He is sentenced to 112 years in prison.

April 24, 1998 – James Parker Middle School – Edinboro, Pennsylvania. 14-year-old Andrew Wurst shoots and kills science teacher John Gillette at a school dance. He is sentenced to serve between 30 and 60 years.

March 24, 1998 – Westside Middle School – Jonesboro, Arkansas. 11-year-old Andrew Golden and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson ambush fellow students and their teachers, killing five. Johnson is incarcerated in a youth facility and released on his 21st birthday August 11, 2005. Golden is released on his 21st birthday, May 25, 2007.

So again I ask, how many more?

Eliza, 16, is a junior at Marist High School where she works to educate herself about political current affairs.

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