Why do Americans accept the deaths of children in school shootings as inevitable? Many of us remember a time when the sickness, disability, and deaths caused by measles, mumps, and rubella were simply the unavoidable risks of putting children together in classrooms. But the few who refused to accept those dangers demanded and achieved mandatory vaccinations rendering those dangerous outbreaks virtually obsolete!
Our success at nearly eliminating the microscopic diseases that once took the lives of children should show us that it is just as possible to end the grotesquely obvious and deadly problem of guns in schools. By summoning the same imagination, creativity, knowledge, determination, and moral courage, we used to beat these other threats to our kids’ lives and wellbeing, we most certainly can do the same to end school shootings.
Yesterday, April 20, marked the 23 years since the unforgettable shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. We all have vivid memories of that day – terrified kids, their hands raised above their heads, parading out of what could have been any high school building in any town in America. Since that terrible day in 1999, we’ve seen the same ghastly imagery over and over again. Twelve students and a teacher were gunned down during that now infamously-known one-word catastrophe, but since Columbine, over 150 students have died, thousands more have been injured, and nearly a quarter of a million have been traumatized by school shooting incidents. For each of those deaths, countless others will carry life-altering burdens of loss, trauma, fear, anxiety, anger, and guilt.
Losing a child at school to a bullet is as preventable as losing a child to measles. It’s past time we attacked this social disease as ferociously as we did that biological disease. Everyone everywhere – teachers, administrators, parents, kids themselves, community leaders, tax-payers, pastors, youth ministers, and whole congregations must mobilize to achieve safe, secure, and fear-free schools.