Oxford shooting becoming a way of American life


By Tom Kirvan
Detroit Legal News

Last week, as I visited family and friends in Colorado, much of my time was spent in Littleton, a charming city of some 50,000 residents featuring a historic downtown lined with turn-of-the-century buildings that serve as a reminder of its 1890 roots.

The suburban community also is home to three high schools, including Columbine, a grade 9-12 facility that in April 1999 became the scene of a shooting spree carried out by two teens who originally planned to bomb the facility. When two would-be bombs failed to detonate, the teens began gunning down students outside the school before continuing their rampage inside, eventually killing 12 students, a teacher, and then themselves.

At the time, it was the worst school shooting in the nation’s history, a dubious distinction that years later would be surpassed by mass killings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Now, a few days after Thanksgiving, the nation was rocked again by four slayings at Oxford High School in suburban Detroit, as a 15-year-old sophomore at the school allegedly opened fire on his fellow students shortly before 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 30. He reportedly used a semi-automatic handgun that investigators believe had been purchased by the suspect’s father just days before the shooting.

The tragedy, of course, has reignited the national debate on gun control and school safety. It also has prompted many political leaders to trot out the shop-worn phrase of “my thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families” as we consider the ramifications of yet another deadly example of gun violence.

One thing remains certain, however: nothing will change in terms of limiting the easy availability of weaponry. Those who believe in the “right to bear arms” will be emboldened even more in the wake of the latest shooting, somehow believing that the only way to counter such killings is to be armed to an even greater degree.

If anything is to be gained from yet another stab at innocent Americans, it is perhaps a discomforting opportunity to learn history’s lesson.

The U.S. has a violent past. The American Revolution, the Civil War, the frontier, racial lynchings, Columbine, Oklahoma City, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino, Charleston, Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Boulder. Shootings and terrorist attacks are not new forms of political expression, but instead have a puzzling and unsettling past.

Until 9/11, most acts of terrorism have been in distant outposts from strange-sounding places around the globe. Distance has served as a disquieting buffer from those who have continuingly threatened to bring the war to American shores.

Now, in some tragic form or another, the threat has become horrifyingly real, randomly striking at the heart of our everyday existence. Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer may have said it best this week when she proclaimed that, “As Michiganders, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect each other from gun violence. No one should be afraid to go to school, work, a house of worship, or even their own home.”

Violence, and the fear of it, now poses threats to the basic quality of life for every American. For some, the routine of everyday life may be so disrupted that it will be difficult to distinguish between the real and imagined.

The shock of a Halloween day truck attack in New York in 2017, reportedly an ISIS-inspired terror plot, was still fresh on our minds when suddenly a small church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, became the unexpected center of the 24/7 news cycle. There, 26 worshipers lost their lives in a bloody rampage by a deranged killer whose history of mindless violence should have sent red flags waving all across the Lone Star State.

Instead, we are left to wonder how an Air Force vet who was court-martialed for beating his wife and child could walk into a gun shop and somehow obtain an assault rifle and other weapons. Clearly it is because the nation’s gun control laws are so weak and ineffective that they might as well have been riddled by an AK-47, the Russian-born assault rifle that has been the weapon of choice in many bloodbaths.

Now, as we grow numb to news of another senseless slaughter, it’s time for Congress to reevaluate its all-too-cozy relationship with the National Rifle Association, whose idea of gun control is “using two hands” on whatever the weapon. Such political sway by the gun lobby only serves to place us all in the crosshairs of the next hell-bent killer.

Or we can remember the words of journalist Erica Buist, who several years ago offered this food for thought:

“Why not just ban guns and when people are upset about it, just send them thoughts and prayers? If ‘thoughts and prayers’ are good enough for people who’ve lost their families, then it’s good enough for people who’ve lost their guns.”

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