Commentary

The minority must listen to the majority when it comes to gun violence

December 7, 2021 4:32 am

Gunfight illustration. (Illustration by Darrell Ehrlick of the Daily Montanan).

Oxford High School is the newest addition to the national list of mass school shootings. This time, even the worn phrase “thoughts and prayers” was not uttered by politicians beholden to a gun lobby while our children and educators face the continuing trauma of drills and living on edge for the next mass shooting event.

Mass school shootings are rare- making up a small proportion of the gun violence affecting children, according to research by Everytown for Gun Safety. Annually, 3,000 children are shot and killed and another 15,000 are wounded in America. However, mass school shootings do account for a disproportionate number of those killed or wounded in a school setting. 

The facts about mass school shooters are chilling.

From April 1999 to May 2019, it was found that of the mass school shooters, 91% were current or former students of the school, 70% were white males, 74% obtained the gun from relatives or friends; guns not stored securely and readily accessible, and 100% exhibited warning signs prior to the event.

As students and communities deal with the continuing trauma of these events, the response of the National Rifle Association compounds the problem. The NRA and gun industry found that after these mass trauma events, gun sales increase due to the fear of possible new regulations. So, they came up with an easy formula to vilify politicians, especially Democrats, who propose or support solutions. They continually stir the pot to keep America divided as well, even though solutions to gun violence in this country are supported by a bipartisan majority of Americans. 

For example, after Columbine, it was found the school shooters exploited a “gun show loophole.” This loophole allows private sellers at gun shows and over the internet to legally sell guns without conducting a background check. Common sense would have been to close that loophole, but the NRA lobbied successfully to prevent it and it still exists today. After Sandy Hook, the NRA needed a response to proposed new regulations after 20 children died, so they created the myth of a “good guy with a gun” and pushed to arm teachers. The year of Parkland, the NRA created ads calling for the “clenched fist of truth” to be used against anyone who would limit guns in a country awash in gun violence. Public schools were among those listed as in the ad. Finally, following the mass shooting this week, the NRA put out a Tweet asking for “freedom seeds” with Santa holding a wish list saying “ammo, ammo, ammo..” Meanwhile, a community is reeling from the loss of four of its young people. 

There are solutions. One of the strongest changes would be for states to enact and enforce safe storage laws. Programs like BeSmart from Everytown would promote public awareness of safe storage. Acting on the warning signs through policies like extreme risk laws would decrease the ready access to firearms during crisis moments. Finally, schools need sufficient mental health services and counseling to provide interventions for our students. 

We are not immune to gun violence in Montana. Montana is consistently in the top five states for the highest suicide rate with 72% of youth suicides committed with firearms. Unfortunately, the response by the state’s politicians has been to make some of the least restrictive firearm laws in the country while pushing to arm teachers, defunding counseling programs in schools and opposing any attempts to make safe storage a requirement for gun ownership. The cycle of traumatizing our children and communities while a minority controls the messaging must end. 

This column was written Denalie Bruins, Missoula; Emily Casey, Kalispell; Sue Gravatt, Missoula; Dan Hall, Missoula; Shannone Hart, Missoula; Shani Henry, Helena; Mike and Edna Kinsella, Missoula; Karin Kirk, Bozeman; Tara Lee, Kalispell; Kiely Lammers, Billings; Helena Lovick, Great Falls; Billy McWilliams, Bozeman;  Shelly Meyer, Missoula; Kathy Shea, Helena; Sheri Sprigg, Helena; Beckie Squires, Helena; Shannon Thomas, Helena; Gail Waldby, Livingston; Tiffany Williams, Florence.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.