On Friday, May 18, a shooter opened fire at Santa Fe High School in Galveston County, Texas, killing 10 people and injuring at least 13, according to reports from NPR. This tragedy marks the most deadly shooting since the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, Florida in February, in which 17 were killed. Of the 10 dead, eight were students and two were teachers at the school. This mass school shooting, following in the wake of the Parkland shooting, has sparked outrage from survivors and advocates of gun control reform. The Santa Fe shooting is also notable in that it marks the 22nd school shooting since the beginning of 2018.
Dimitrios Pagourtzis, the 17-year-old suspect, has cooperated with police and is being held without bail on multiple charges of capital murder, reports CNN. Some reports have indicated that he was not shooting indiscriminately, but consciously choosing to spare those he liked. While the details of the shooting are still forthcoming, what is also of interest are the greater trends related to gun violence in America that may be drawn from this most recent incident.
As previously noted, this shooting marks the 22nd school shooting of 2018; at only 20 weeks into the year, the United States is averaging more than one school shooting per week in 2018. Broadening the scope to all mass shootings (defined as shootings where at least four people were injured or killed), 2018 has already seen 130 deaths and 413 injuries, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Despite these seemingly untenable numbers, it is likely that this tragedy will follow the pattern of those that have come before it: the Parkland shooting is a most instructive example, in this case. The country is horrified; everyone, from survivors to politicians to the President, will express their sadness and sympathy for the victims, there will be calls for sensible gun reform or a reduction in the number of violent video games, and all will fall into a partisan debate with no real changes made. The Parkland shooting, of course, saw the rise of the March for Our Lives movement, along with the accompanying national action. Real policy change, has, however, been slow to emerge, as displayed by the Santa Fe shooting.
Already, the usual school shooting script is being followed: survivors both of this shooting and the March for Our Lives Movement have called for gun reform, while Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick of Texas has made public comments blaming violent video games, abortion, and a general “culture of violence,” rather than guns for the cause behind school shootings, including the most recent in Santa Fe. If the pattern holds true, rage over the shooting will lead to strong calls for gun reform that will eventually die down into the sustained, low-grade political debate over the issue with few changes actually made to limit the damage done, followed by arguments that there is no way to stem this violence, or that it is a mental illness issue rather than a gun issue, or that gun control would only make things worse, ad infinitum. These arguments lead to a mentality wherein school shootings are mourned and then left by the wayside, with few lessons learned from Parkland, Sandy Hook, or Columbine.
These arguments, of course, ignore the evidence: gun control does work (see the Australian and Scottish examples); mental health is not the issue; there are things to be done. The United States continues to face mass school shootings, not because it is incapable of coming up with workable solutions, but because it refuses to acknowledge that there is a problem.
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