Editorial: Catania: The burden of gun violence weighs on us all | Opinion
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a guest editorial by Roger Catania, retired educator and former superintendent of the Lake Placid Central School District.
The days following the horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas will be sad and intriguing days in American schools and communities. No one expresses their anxiety like parents. No one feels the pressing weight of responsibility for the safety of our students like teachers, principals and superintendents. I mourn the victims of this senseless shooting, but I am also sad for my colleagues in schools in the area who feel an added burden today.
There is no doubt that these feelings of sadness and responsibility increased with each tragic act of school violence. The list is too long – Robb Elementary (TX), Sandy Hook Elementary (CT), Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (FL), Columbine High School (CO), Santa Fe High School (TX), etc.
North Country school communities will mourn with their fellow schools, near and far. They will also face their own fears, insecurities and worries.
Could it happen here? It’s a fair and natural question, and insofar as it helps us think about existing safety measures in schools and strive to improve them, it can be a productive effort.
However, too often we look only to our schools for the answers. This means we ignore problems that lie elsewhere but rarely impinge on the safety of our schools.
According to FBI data, in the twenty-year period beginning in 2000, there were 44 active shooting incidents in schools serving children in kindergarten through 12th grade. School shootings represent approximately 13% of all active shooting situations. Businesses represent three times that number.
Active shooting situations are more common in open public spaces than in schools. Schools are therefore only a small part of this immense problem.
But too often, we expect teachers, principals, superintendents, and school board members to shoulder all the burden. This answer ignores where the real problem lies. Solutions that limit security efforts to schools themselves will likely be ineffective.
Mass shootings may get our attention, but they are not the leading cause of gunshot deaths. As Nick Kristof told us in 2017 (and recently rephrased), more lives are being lost by firearms in the hands of friends or family members, and male suicides are even more common. Guns, not schools, are the problem.
That being said, gun violence against schools is particularly shocking because of the youth and vulnerability of its victims, and the utter agony of loss. Such a tragedy should shake us out of our complacency and inspire us to do something about it.
Unfortunately, we have a long history of doing nothing. This must change.
Kristof points to the strong correlation between stricter gun laws and lower death rates, and he suggests modeling gun regulations on car regulations. This is a public health approach rather than a traditional gun control approach, and it deserves our attention. Other solutions also deserve our attention. Doing nothing is unacceptable.
I hope we can begin to approach the complex and controversial issue of gun violence with open minds and level heads, keeping the name of every child’s life lost to guns at the forefront of our minds. . It’s our burden to bear – all of us – and it’s time to take our responsibility seriously.