Authorities are still trying to figure out exactly what transpired Thursday morning at Saugus High School in Santa Carita, where a shooting left two students dead at last count. Four others were reported injured, including the suspected gunman, described as a 16-year-old boy now hospitalized after apparently shooting himself.
The tragedies compound, and the grief is visceral. But there is no shock, really, outside the small circle of people directly affected by the gunfire. Because we have seen this too many times before — and we are destined to repeat it for the foreseeable future because we, as a society, choose to let paralysis overwhelm public safety.
It’s not a leap to say that no 16-year-old should have ready access to a firearm outside the immediate supervision of an adult. Yet each year, about 1 million students show up at school carrying a firearm. Since 2010 there have been 142 mass shootings committed by people age 17 and younger.
There will certainly be an investigation into where this weapon came from, whether an adult failed to lock it up, whether there were any hints of the violence to come, whether school security was adequate. All of that will get sorted out. But in the end, the availability of the gun remains, and that is the root of our gun violence problem.
This is the 39th mass shooting (that is, a shooting in which at least four people were wounded) in California this year, bringing the statewide total to 53 people killed and 158 injured. And this in a state with some of the most stringent gun control laws in the country. Nationwide, an additional 354 people have died, with 1,321 injured.
So how do we address this? Policy debates haven’t worked. Legislative fixes — few and far between nationwide — have been insufficient. The gun lobby and 2nd Amendment hard-liners shake their heads and say, nope, this isn’t on us. It’s mental illness. Or it’s this or it’s that but, Lord, no, it’s never the guns.
Except it’s always the guns. And the bigger and badder the firearm, the worse the carnage.
We’ve seen it in incidents large and small. The massacres at a Las Vegas country music concert, in churches in South Carolina and Texas, at schools and work sites scattered all across the country. But also gun-related killings in homes, in cars, on streets. The Gun Violence Archive lists more than 13,000 people nationwide shot to death so far this year, with 21,000 additional people killing themselves with firearms.
That’s more than 34,000 deaths in which a firearm was involved. In just one year. Over the last five years, about 72,000 people were shot to death, excluding suicides. That’s nearly the capacity of the Los Angeles Coliseum. If you’re going to include suicides, tack on more than 100,000 more deaths.
So today, and tomorrow, and for the foreseeable future, the grieving will be done in Santa Clarita. Two weeks ago it was in Long Beach, where someone shot up a Halloween party, killing three people and wounding nine others.
Which has to have us all wondering — where will this grief descend next? And why do we tolerate it?