The massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday is almost too much to comprehend. In total, 19 innocent children and two adults were killed by an alleged 18-year-old madman. This type of crime on such a large scale has happened more than once in the United States. It should never become a routine that people accept, but in some ways, it feels like the country is becoming numb to it.
I was a junior in high school in April 1999 when two teenage gunmen entered their high school in Columbine, Colorado, killing 12 students and one teacher and injuring even more. The planned tragedy rocked the nation. At the time it occurred, the Columbine school massacre was the deadliest school shooting in United States history. It severely tested my sense of safety. Never before had I really questioned my security as I sat in classrooms, the library, or the cafeteria. Unfortunately, Columbine was not the last mass school shooting.
In the years since Columbine, innocent students and teachers have been gunned down elsewhere. The list includes Virginia Tech, where 32 were killed in April 2007; Sandy Hook Elementary, where 26 were killed in December 2012; and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 were killed in February 2018. And these are just the schools.
The nation has also witnessed mass shootings in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 were killed at a movie theater in July 2012; Las Vegas, where 60 were killed during a country music festival in October 2017; Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 were killed at a Baptist church only one month later; El Paso, where 23 were killed at a Walmart in August 2019; and Buffalo, New York, where 10 were killed at a supermarket earlier this month.
There were many other shootings in which the death counts were lower. But whether a few or several dozen were killed, the grief remains strong. The anger is palpable. Each life is precious.
Following the Parkland shooting, students organized a gun control movement called Never Again. Despite the sentiment, participants and observers know gun violence will never disappear. The unfortunate truth is that some human beings choose evil, and even if laws were to help, they would never bring an end to even the most horrific crimes.
Whether or not you support the Second Amendment, the reality is that gun violence is a multi-faceted problem. Most gun owners are responsible and law-abiding. But some aren't. Most who struggle with mental illness won't inflict harm on others. But some will. Most who struggle with broken families or romantic relationships don't seek some sort of revenge. But some do. Armed security can be a great deterrent. Sometimes it isn't. Citizens shouldn't "accept" any crime, but the reality is that gun violence is not going away. And that includes even if new laws, measures, or procedures are enacted. The heart-wrenching reality is that it will happen again.
In the last decade, there has been a significant cultural decline. Social media have taken over, harming mental health. Depression and suicide rates have skyrocketed among teenagers and younger adults. According to reports, technology is the main culprit. And a brief survey of mass shooting suspects shows mental instability was a factor on more than one occasion. There are other issues as well, including family life, access to firearms, and being subjected to bullying. And one factor that can't be overlooked is why 98% of mass shootings are committed by males. There are real problems that simply can't be addressed with stricter gun control measures.
It is worth it to look at what can be improved to reduce the number of mass shooting incidents, whether that be red flag laws, re-imagined security, or the like. But they will never fully go away. After tragedy strikes, Americans always get caught up in the anti-gun and pro-gun debate. But if we limit the discussion to firearms, we are missing everything else that goes into it.
There has been a real societal shift for the worse. This is undeniable. Columbine was a defining moment in my life as a young person. Now, countless others will have their own perspectives marked by similarly ghastly events. But as the list gets longer, the nation must never grow numb to either the horror or the work it will take to address the root causes of these horrific shootings.
Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog and a columnist at Arc Digital.