It has happened in schools and churches everywhere across America. And it could happen here. Which is why we feel compelled to offer some thoughts about last week’s tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — and the media and public firestorm that followed and continues today.
On Valentine’s Day, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz walked into his former high school with an AR-15 assault rifle, and sprayed a swath of destruction that killed 17 students and staff, and injured over a dozen more. It was reportedly the 18th gun-related incident on U.S. school grounds since Jan. 1, 2018, and the seventh firearm attack during school hours since the first of the year.
The Parkland tragedy has replaced the 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Columbine, Colorado, as the second-most deadly school shooting in U.S. history. At Columbine, 13 students and staff were killed and over 20 more injured by students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
Only the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, remains the largest, with 20 students and six faculty killed by 20-year-old Adam Lanza. Of note, Harris, Klebold and Lanza reportedly suffered from mental health issues, and it has been reported that Cruz does as well.
Just like all the other shootings that have occurred this year and years past, the news of the Parkland tragedy was heart-wrenching and shocking. The senseless loss, the shattered lives and families, have caused more deep sadness, fear and anger across America. They have also further turned up the heat on the gun control debate, demands for stricter background checks, and casting a broader mental health safety net to prevent more people from “falling though the cracks” and taking it out on others in horrible acts of violence.
Perhaps tighter gun control, stricter background checks and improved mental health awareness and prevention would help stem the tide of mass shootings in schools, churches and other public venues across America that are supposed to be places of safety. But at the end of the day, we don’t see such shifts in policy or effort would result in significant and sustainable change. The random mass shootings and senseless killings would continue.
The reason? Many people across America feel that our democracy is in peril more than ever before. That may be so. But we would offer there is something more deeper and worrisome that is amiss in our country that needs to change — and that something is “we the people” of the United States and how much we truly are connected, and truly care about — or even love — one another. We’re not talking about loving our families; we’re talking about putting down the smartphone and reaching out to our neighbor and fellow citizens through genuine action and concern.
That may sound overly simplistic and naïve, but at its essence, it touches the very core of humanity. To say simply, the United States is renowned for being a nation of laws and democracy. Perhaps more than ever, the United States needs to become renowned for being a nation of people who go the extra mile for one another.
Perhaps only then will we see far fewer Columbines, Sandy Hooks and Parklands.