UPDATED May 18, 2018: I wrote this piece after the school shooting in Florida, but I only had to change three things to make it relevant for the school shooting today in Santa Fe, Texas: the state, death count, and the total number of shootings in 2018.
When I heard that there was another school shooting, this time in Santa Fe, Texas, resulting in 10 killed (in February it was 17 killed in Florida), I’m sad to say I wasn’t surprised. I expect them now. It seems part of the fabric of our society to accept that children in America should have to anticipate the possibility that their classmate or a deranged stranger will walk into their school and shoot it up. How can children feel safe to learn with curiosity and enthusiasm when they are on constant lockdown?
More specifically, according to advocacy group Everytown, there have been 312 school shootings in America since 2013.
Even more staggering, there have already been 42 school shootings in 2018. In 45 days to be exact. (*Update: According to some pundits this statistic is wrong because Everytown’s definition of a school shooting is “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.” The fact that they argue that the shooting didn’t result in a fatality or that it wasn’t actually in the hallways is mind-blowing).
American leaders love to bloviate about America’s storied traditions of education and freedom, while underdeveloped countries around the world struggle with democracy and education because of dictatorships, religious zealots, and violence. How are we any better when it comes to freedom and education when our lawmakers have a stronger allegiance to the NRA than they do to our children’s safety? Their jobs depend on it.
Former Democratic representative Steve Israel wrote eloquently about this after the Las Vegas massacre in October 2017. This sentence alone explains a lot:
“In the confines of the members-only elevators, where my colleagues could speak honestly, I heard colleagues confide that any vote for gun safety would lower their N.R.A. scores, making them casualties in the next election.”
When news broke of the shooting in Florida, my girlfriend texted me: We’re not sending our kids to a school with shooters. Sadly, I don’t know if that will be possible. Unless our lawmakers make drastic changes to America’s gun laws, by the time our children enter school — shootings in the classroom will be even more common.
Perhaps our lawmakers should issue new bullets that are painted with the American flag and inscribed with the phrase, “Thoughts & Prayers.” Considering all lawmakers seem to be able to do is tweet and voice that tired sentiment after a massacre — at least by issuing these bullets, they will be honest about where they stand. Their thoughts and prayers are as good as the bullets tearing through our children’s bodies.
Perhaps it’s time for new thoughts and prayers.
Bio: Moshe Schulman has written for The Rumpus, Orange Quarterly, Volume 1 Brooklyn, Ravishly, The Forward, Tablet Magazine, Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. He has been a featured storyteller on The Moth Radio Hour, The Moth Podcast, and NPR. His story “Then You Will Know” is featured in the Moth Anthology All These Wonders. He has received grants from numerous writer’s conferences including Tent: Encounters with Jewish Culture, Tin House, Squaw Valley, and Bread Loaf. He recently completed a memoir about leaving the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community of Monsey, N.Y.