School shootings a small part of the toll
There have been 145 school shootings in the United States this century, according to Wikipedia, resulting in 193 deaths and 231 injuries. And the frequency of such events has increased dramatically.
It’s a terrible toll, but in fact, it’s just a small corner of the dark, larger picture of unnecessary deaths.
By year-end 2014, total U.S. firearms deaths in the first 15 years of the 21st century will number almost 500,000. In that same time period, traffic fatalities will approach 600,000, although currently, firearm and traffic deaths are running nearly equal, about 32,000 per year.
We have a visceral reaction to each death in school shooting incidents because they evoke a primal fear, a deep sense of wanting to protect innocent children, empathy for victims and related anger over preventable access to firearms.
However, as a society, we do little about it. Our systemic response is an incessant debate on the meaning of 27 words written in 1791 as the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
We should be considering a gun-rights amendment more apt in an age that hardly resembles the time of the American Revolution. Instead, we relentlessly parse the meaning of “a well regulated militia” while debating the importance of access to semi-automatic assault rifles.
Our response to traffic deaths consists primarily of acceptance or, at best, apathy. We won’t sacrifice a few precious minutes of our personal time with reduced speed limits that would save tens of thousands of lives while significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We tolerate too much inebriation, criminal inattention and just plain stupidity on the roadways.
It should be almost impossible for mentally ill people to acquire the weapons commonly used in mass shootings. We should have a cultural ethos that would greatly reduce our roadway slaughter.
Individual rights are important, but with freedom comes risk and some measure of human collateral damage. However, we are talking about 64,000 Americans dying annually from guns and cars, with millions more injured and tens of billions of dollars in health and property costs.
What about the rights of all those people to live in a safer society?
There aren’t easy answers. The sad fact is that Americans lack the collective will to solve a wide variety of challenges. All we can do is join the extended Troutdale community in grieving over two more young students killed in a senseless school shooting.
Jeb Bladine can be reached at email@example.com or 503-687-1223.