Another week and another mass shooting in America. This latest shooting, at Saugus High School in Santa Clarita, California, not far from Los Angeles, was especially jarring for me because one of my cousins, LaShawn, lives in that area. I was startled when she texted me to say that her entire neighborhood was on lockdown, and that her friend and next-door neighbor is a teacher at Saugus. I could feel my cousin’s fear through her series of text messages.
When will this ever end? When we will be able to say “enough is enough” and actually mean it?
This is just too much, one friend said to me, while admitting that he, like many Americans, is simply numb to all of this.
We cannot afford to be numb to gun violence, not now, not ever. I wrote a blog a few weeks back, in the aftermath of the El Paso shooting, with the title “I do not want to get shot.” I was terrified even writing that title, wondering whether I might somehow bring tragedy onto myself for stating aloud what many of us now feel: This can happen to us too, any time and in any locale.
The shooter in Santa Clarita was Nathan Berhow; it was sixteenth birthday. He shot several people, killing two and wounding three others, before shooting himself in the head.
We know that Berhow’s father died in 2017 and that this affected him mightily; he may have been suffering from severe depression. This comes as no surprise: We’ve seen time and again over the last two decades how easy access to guns, poor mental health, and distorted notions of manhood lead to tragedy.
When we will be able to say “enough is enough” and actually mean it?
LaShawn and I texted back and forth. I was deeply concerned about her safety, until it was reported that the gunman had been captured (he had survived his self-inflicted gunshot wound). She shared with me how the community came together, racing to and fro, whether or not they had children at the school, to support, to rescue. She gave me an update on her friend and next-door neighbor, who teaches at the school and how she was still shaking, literally, after it was over.
And I thought about the fact that we still have no common-sense gun laws in America. How, regardless of my fitness to possess deadly weapons, I could easily get a gun online or at a local gun shop, pretty much anywhere in our nation.
This is not about Second Amendment rights. This is about a culture of violence that continually breeds more violence. This is about a culture of indifference that continually breeds more indifference.
We have more guns than any other country on the planet. We have more gun violence than any other country on the planet. We have the most powerful gun lobby of any country on the planet.
We are a society where violence has become the norm, and the solution for every single conflict or woe.
Hurt people hurt other people, and we are a badly hurt America. Yet we refuse to collectively see what all this gun violence truly is: a massive public health epidemic that is destroying us bit by bit with every mass shooting.
I am grateful that my cousin LaShawn and her friend and neighbor are okay, and that not more lives were lost. But I am also so sad that we have to perpetually write pieces like this. The answers are right in our faces, yet our leaders and much of the citizenry refuse to see them.