INDIANAPOLIS — Merriam-Webster defines an atrocity as “a shockingly evil or atrocious act, object, or situation.” In other times, the word atrocity was mostly used in times of war, be it Babi Yar in Kyiv, the Katyn Forest Massacre in Poland, Andersonville Prison during the American Civil War, or My Lai in Vietnam.
But since 1999, following the first modern school mass shooting at Columbine High School, I’ve used words like atrocity and massacre to describe everyday American locations: Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut , the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FedEx facilities here in Indy, Tops Friendly Market in Buffalo and now Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
America, of course, has a gun problem, as well as a mental health dilemma. School killings have risen from around 25 a year in 2000 to 236 in 2021 and more than 135 so far this year.
Since the pandemic hit in 2020, Americans have purchased 40 million guns. Pew Research reports that the murder rate in the United States increased by 30% between 2019 and 2020 – the largest single-year increase in more than a century, according to data released this month by the Centers for Disease. Control and Prevention.
There were 7.8 homicides per 100,000 population in the United States in 2020, compared to six homicides per 100,000 population the previous year. According to the FBI, there were 21,570 murders last year, up 29% from 16,669 in 2019 and the highest annual total since 1995.
The majority of these school rampages were committed with AR-15s, a weapon designed for military combat. The 18-year-old terrorist from Uvalde legally bought two AR-15s, even though he wasn’t old enough to buy a beer.
The Wall Street Journal editorial board observed: “The recent proliferation of mass shootings suggests a deeper disease that gun laws cannot address. to kill innocent people.
“That a teenager can look at a nine-year-old child, point a gun and pull the trigger signals a larger social and cultural breakdown.”
The leading cause of death among American children is now guns, according to Axios. Indiana ranks 7th in the United States with 8.7 deaths per 100,000. Nearly two-thirds of the 4,368 young Americans under the age of 19 who were killed by firearms in 2020 were victims of homicide (car crashes killed less than 4,000 people).
How should we respond?
A recent CBS News poll found that 54% of Americans want laws covering the sale of guns, 30% think gun laws should be left as they are, and 16% want they are less strict.
A Politico/Morning Consult poll conducted entirely after the Uvalde massacre found 88% support requiring background checks for all gun sales (22% of guns are acquired without one); 75% support a national database; 67% support banning assault rifles; and 84% block gun sales to people documented to have mental illness.
Gov. Eric Holcomb said Wednesday the focus should be on school security, even though the Uvalde and Buffalo atrocities were carried out with security officers on the scene.
“We have the means, and we have the financial resources, to ensure that our schools maintain their integrity,” he said.
“That means a port of entry. That’s why we make sure they have chopsticks, if needed. You could call that toughening them up when the kids are in the classrooms. We’re not going to, I believe. , in the State of Indiana, take action to restrict individuals who may legally purchase a firearm for sporting or self-defense.”
There is common sense policy and manufacturing steps. If I lose my cell phone, it’s useless for anyone to find it. Why can’t we make weapons that require a fingerprint? Or why not prohibit the purchase of weapons for those under 21? Or ban people who commit domestic violence from legally buying a gun? Or require background checks for those buying ammunition?
While Indiana’s new congressional maps have created nine non-competitive districts, there is a race for the US Senate.
Republican U.S. Senator Todd Young reacted to the latest Texas atrocity saying, “I am deeply saddened by the horrific shooting at an elementary school in Texas. Our nation mourns the innocent lives taken in this senseless tragedy, and my heart breaks for all who lost loved ones.
“They deserve answers on how and why this terrible event happened. All children and teachers deserve a safe and welcoming environment in our schools. Although we do not yet know if this could have had an impact in this situation , enforceable red flag laws give local law enforcement a better chance of stopping senseless attacks.”
His Democratic opponent, Hammond Mayor Thomas McDermott Jr., said, “Todd Young hasn’t done anything since Sandy Hook. Young hasn’t done anything since Pulse, Parkland, Florida Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School)Indianapolis, Buffalo and now Uvalde – and thousands of Americans lost their lives.
“As we mourn the loss of our students and teachers in Texas, Todd Young sits in his office collecting donation after donation from the NRA to maintain the status quo – all the while wishing thoughts and prayers in hollow statements.
“Senator, it’s time to act or get out of Washington for those – like me – who want to stop this violence and save the lives of our loved ones.”
It’s time for that debate, as we await the next (inevitable) American atrocity.