It's been one week since the school shooting in Chardon, Ohio. So where are we on the endless cycle of school shootings? Chardon has now buried the three boys who were killed. The talking continues in some circles, but the media has pretty much dropped the story outside of Ohio.
Will there actually be action to prevent another Chardon shooting? Or will we eventually forget it, as a nation?
Will there be serious consideration by the Ohio legislature to enact Child Access Protection laws to require gun owners to store their guns safely?
Will parents and other family members realize that it's a bad idea to keep guns in the homes of at-risk children?
Will friends and relatives pay any more attention to the warning signs, like ominous Facebook or Twitter postings, radical and negative changes in behavior, or violent talk?
Or will we just shake our heads, blame the shooting on one child or his guardians, and go on about our lives without making changes that make it harder for disturbed children to get their hands on the family gun?
Understanding what makes troubled children act violently, and intervening before a tragedy can happen, is incredibly important. But we must also take steps to minimize the chances in other ways, such as by removing the tools with which they can do harm. A gun isn't just a lump of metal, it's a lethal weapon that even a four-year old can manipulate and cause to fire.
As Dennis Henigan wrote in his most recent blog posting at Huffington Post (I added the bolding):
Inevitably, the question on most people's minds is "Why?" What possibly could have caused 17-year-old T.J. Lane to turn a gun on his fellow students, killing three and wounding two more? There is talk of bullying. Of an abusive father. After all, he was attending a school for kids who have had trouble in traditional schools.
The "Why?" question is certainly important. If we are ever able to offer meaningful help to troubled kids, we must better understand the factors that cause teens to be so alienated and enraged that they would engage in violence. But the dominant focus on "Why?" often obscures the nature of the problem posed by tragedies like Chardon.
Let's face it. Chardon happened not because an Ohio teenager was so troubled that he became violent. Chardon happened because a troubled, violent Ohio teenager was able to get access to a gun.
Remove the gun from the equation and there may have been a violent incident involving T.J. Lane. But it is doubtful that three young people would have died and two been seriously injured. The nature and scope of the Chardon tragedy was determined by the nature and lethality of the weapon. It's not just a question of "Why?" It's also a question of "How?"
Pro-gun extremists like to rehash the old mantra, "Guns don't kill people, people kill people." It's their way of dodging the issue of easy access to the weapons they hold so dear. Guns have as their main purpose, as a goal of their design, the ability to kill quickly and efficiently. Just aim and twitch your finger.
It's not just the mass killings where the gun makes the difference. In general, assaults with guns are 23 times more deadly than assaults with other weapons or bodily force. Suicide attempts with guns are far more likely to result in death than attempts using other means. Accidents with guns are more deadly than accidents with other dangerous objects.
While we are trying to figure out how a young heart could become so hardened that it would lead to an act of unspeakable violence, can we not also have sensible policies to prevent hardened and violent kids from getting access to guns? I have no doubt the gun lobby welcomes our obsession with the "Why?" question. It deflects attention from the deadly role of the guns.
Yes, this teen shooter needs to be held accountable for his actions, but so too must all those adults who allowed the weapon to fall into his hands: his guardians, who failed to secure the weapon and ammo in the house with an at-risk teen; the Ohio legislators who failed to pass a Child Access Prevention law; and the people of Ohio and America who are willing to put up with tragedies like this one without calling for reform.
As we say over at the Kid Shootings blog: "Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult."
When will the next horrible school shooting happen?
When will we demand changes to keep it from happening again? Or, rather....
When will YOU demand changes to keep it from happening again?