There’s been another school shooting, this time at Northern Illinois University. As of the moment I write this, six are dead.
Why have there been so many school shootings in recent years? The easy answer that many jump to is the ready availability of guns- but that doesn’t bear close examination.
100 years ago, everything- up to and including cannons and machineguns- were legal. The Tommy gun , the machinegun made famous by the “Untouchables”, was sold mail order, no questions asked. (which is why so many criminals owned it) Only big cities required a license to carry a gun, and there were no restrictions on buying them. There were no school massacres.
When I was a very small child, machineguns were restricted, and you had to be 18 to buy a pistol in most places, but anyone any age could buy a long gun at any hardware store. You could still buy guns mail order. Lee Harvey Oswald obtained the surplus Italian infantry rifle he assassinated JFK with from an ordinary sporting goods store. No school massacres.
When I was a just a little older, Marlin advertised their .22s in comic books, and Col. Larsen, “The Marlin Man”, a famous sharpshooter, would wow kids by shooting through the hole of a Lifesaver candy at shows and fairs. I learned to shoot in the cub scouts. No school massacres.
In high school, I was on the school rifle team, and more than half the high schools had their own firing range. This was after the King and Robert Kennedy assassinations, so there were now more gun laws in place, but I still could, and did, buy a shotgun as a teenager. No waiting periods, no number of guns bought restrictions, no background checks- and no school massacres.
A couple of years ago, Indianapolis set a new homicide record, both in total number and per capita. I researched the records then, and noticed something: there were more non-firearm homicides- fists, knives, and clubs- in that year than there were TOTAL homicides, INCLUDING guns, the year I was born.
All this makes it really difficult to blame the availability of guns for the modern shootings. Guns are harder to obtain than they’ve ever been in my lifetime, but the violence still keeps getting worse. Some people are blaming poor background checks, not keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. But that still doesn’t explain why these school shootings have been happening only these last few years- there were people with mental illnesses fifty years ago.
One needn’t be a Jerry Fallwell to conclude that there’s something wrong with society itself that is behind this- there are other symptoms as well: rampant drug use, illegitimacy and divorce rates so high that less than one child in five is raised to majority in a two-parent household. But that doesn’t mean the past was better- widespread racism, sexism, homophobia, and injustice so bad that children reading of it in school can scarcely conceive how bad it was.
Is Humankind doomed to live at the poles? Are the choices always repression and oppression, or anarchy? Does it always have to be either public prudery or public licentiousness, either censorship or open sewers aimed at our minds? Either Prohibition or crack dealers on every corner? Won’t anyone tell people “No, we don’t act like that. Not because it’s illegal... not because you’ll burn in Hell... but because you’re better than that.”?