By Fr. Daniele Moschetti
There were 13 deaths at Columbine High School in the state of Colorado; 26 at Sandy Hook in the state of Connecticut; 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas in Florida. Over the past twenty years, from 1999-2018, there have been more than 200 mass shootings that, over time, have grown in numbers. This has led unequivocally to a continuous pattern of massacre in the U.S. experience, and the accompanying shock and trauma for victims in both schools and public places. In the United States, the names of places or schools are always remembered with numbers of dead or wounded that these attacks have caused. What is not readily reported is the collateral damage of each crisis. Compared to other nations, it is clear: there is no other country like the U.S. more prone to violence and killings using weapons against its own citizens.
187,000 STUDENTS AND 193 SCHOOLS
Since the shootings at Columbine High School in 1999 to date, there have been more than 187,000 students of 193 primary and secondary schools who have experienced gunfire and attacks on their campuses during school hours. Attacks on schools still remain a rare event because they represent only a small percentage of the epidemic of gun violence in the country. Every day and every hour, there are boys, girls or young men wounded or killed. It is estimated that in the country, 96 people die every day from gunshot violence. Psychologist Bruce D. Perry, an expert in trauma for children and teenagers says, “We can no longer say and think that we are sending our children to schools in safe and secure locations. Now middle-class and upper-class children are not and no longer feel safe.”
And it is the case of Marjory Stoneman Douglas School, in Parkland, Florida on 14th February, where there was the most recent of the mass killing attacks since 1999 took place. The murderer, a former student at the school and expelled a year before, was a young white man, 19 years, Nikolas Cruz with various personal and family problems. He boldly and coldly completed this attack in 6 minutes and 20 seconds by downloading several rounds into his helpless and terrified peers. He used the infamous AR 15, an automatic machine gun that shoots 45 rounds per minute. This gun was used in all the massacres of recent years both in American schools but also at other public events. It’s a weapon that should only be used by the military but, is being sold regularly to all buyers in the country.
THE TIP OF THE ICEBERG
From these young victims of Parkland, Florida came the cry of revolt that is changing the spirit and inspiring the desire to “fight” the chilling stillness towards this terrible national problem. It’s a problem that has been decimating the younger generations and the future of the country for over 20 years. This is only the tip of the iceberg that is much larger than the typical malaise often experienced by America’s black and Latin Americans since it is also now an experience of the white upper class. It is becoming increasingly difficult for all state law enforcement agencies, security and protection details to contain society that is based on violence at various levels. In addition, the resulting injuries, diseases and thousands of suicides that this violent, competitive and consumerist society causes affect not only future generations but the older ones. There are signs of decline of human values and principles that have devolved into a growth of intolerance, injustice, racism, violence, imprisonment and deliberate killings by police and by individual citizens. And, the people are increasingly armed with the latest rifles on the market.
A recent study of the daily Washington Post, showed that assaults, injuries and killings are three times higher in schools of young African-Americans (16.6% of citizens in the country). And are two times greater in those predominantly Hispanics (19.5% of citizens in the country). The data shows us how minority communities are the most tormented and at higher risk than the white ones. But, the national attention and collected information are especially focused on those of white race, colour and culture. In the last 20 years of such violence and disasters occurring in educational institutions, there is a clear trend for those to declare progress on the values of inclusion, progress, democracy and freedom. But, values such as these become privileges only for some and not all. Many of the shootings taking place in schools of African-Americans or Latinos, are typically not even reported by newspapers or media houses and if they are reported, it is done superficially.
According to this research, on average, there were 10 shootings per year, beginning with 1999 at Columbine, with a minimum of 5 attacks in 2002 to a maximum of 15 in 2014. This year 2018, there have already been 11 shootings, the last one mid March at Great Mills High School in St. Mary’s County, Maryland, just a few weeks after the one at Parkland, Florida. A 16-year-old girl was killed by her former boyfriend, a 17-year-old, who committed suicide soon after. These attacks occurred in 36 States of the 50 of the United States of America, both in big cities and smaller ones, in the countryside and suburbs. Additional research shows that in schools, from 2005 to 2018 (Parkland, Florida), there were 526 people dead, 1424 wounded, and several hundred assaults. It also showed an ever-growing trend, of increasingly updated and more lethal types of weapons being used. And increasingly with solitary killers.
MILLIONS OF WEAPONS
We must take into account that in the U.S., there are over 357 million weapons (source: Congressional Research Service) that are in the hands of citizens. This nation has 320 million citizens, representing 4.4 percent of the world’s population. But, American citizens have 42 percent of world weapons purchased by individuals. However, another percentage draws attention: only 20% of the American population has about 65% of the total number of arms in the country.
These are hand and light weapons, super automatic, but also increasingly lethal and sophisticated, the latest productions. And since the business of arms has a large turnover of billions of dollars each year, the National Rifle Association (NRA) continues to sponsor the sale of new small arms in the country. But, the same organization and the most important, lobbies, sells and experts billion of dollars in small arms and heavy weapons worldwide.
When citizens wonder who brings arms in Syria, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Africa and the Middle East and other parts of the world, they should not forget that the U.S. is the world’s largest producer of weapons, followed almost closely by its “great frenemy Russia”. In the new era of “Trump and Putin,” what is certain, the “tomfoolery” is at the expense of bringing world politics closer to global security, peace and the integral development of people for a common good.
Not surprisingly, Trump recently signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia for another billion dollars in weapons. This one follows the agreement concluded in May 2017, on his first visit to Saudi Arabia as President of the United States, where he signed a colossal agreement of “110 billion dollars” for weapons. But that should become “350 billion dollars” over the next 10 years. Certainly, try to guess where these weapons will end in the next few years? What will the ‘New Country’ be like? To be continued…
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