COLLATERAL DAMAGE II

Writing on 15 June 2014: I had a really traumatic week. I ran out of sausages just before last weekend, and had been thinking about going out shopping ever since. The problem is that apparently only one market on the east side of town carries the brand I like. (The other brands aren't worth buying, as far as I'm concerned.) The good store is a couple miles from my house, so it's not like I can just go out shopping whenever the mood strikes.

   Well, I couldn't get out shopping on Monday, so I was really planning on Tuesday. But when on Tuesday morning I got down close to the Troutdale Safeway, I found that all kinds of streets were blocked off, and the police were directing traffic away from where I needed to go. Not only that, but there were kids milling around everywhere. There were so many of them it looked like the whole high school must have emptied out - and it wasn't even lunch time.

   The bottom line is that I wasn't able to replenish my sausage supply Tuesday. To make matters worse, I was too busy Wednesday to get out, so I went an entire week without sausages. Talk about a bad seven days!

   I was thinking about contacting KOIN-TV about it. Their whole news crew is spending all their time these days out looking into problems in the city, asking tough questions like "why did this happen?" and "how are you going to make sure this never happens again?" It sure seems like somebody should ask why I couldn't get to the market to get my sausages. Then, somebody should guarantee that I will never have this problem again.

   Also, last week we had another high school shooting, but only two kids dead this time.

*   *   *   *

   Is the above flippant, disrespectful, and unfeeling about a tragedy? Yes, it is -- and yet, a school shooting in the United States have become almost a Page Two item; not quite to the point of acceptable late night comedy satire, but, you know, like what follows when the TV anchorman says "In other news..."  A much-repeated internet statistic is that there have been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook; CNN revised that down to 15 (something about a "shooting at school" not being the same as a "school shooting"). Either way, I don't think I heard about more than 5 or 6 of the incidents, and I'm a pretty active news follower. Even here in Portland (and I really do live just a couple miles from Reynolds High School), while the shooting was Big News, it wasn't Big News 24/7, but more like 24/2 or 3. Within days, the event was covered by the news media only slightly more than concerns about vagrants living in abandoned houses and alleged mountain lion sightings in town. As the anchorman says, "In other news... "

*   *   *  *

  Aside from the real grief felt by family and friends of both killed and killer - and there's no way The News can give more than a sympathetic nod to that - the aftermath of Reynolds was what we have come to expect. The NRA and others espousing the right to own arsenals were quick to point out that armed security patrolmen on campus had put a quick end to the mayhem. Perhaps - give credit where credit is due, certainly - but the way we heard it locally was that the on-site officers had no idea there was a heavily-armed student on the premises until after one student was dead and an already wounded teacher was able to get out a call for help. To be fair, there was probably no way the security people could have known, not being on a campus surrounded by an 8-foot high chain link fence (with razor wire on top), having only one entrance staffed 24 hours a day, and requiring a full body and possession search of every person coming into the area.

   There was very little talk this time about background checks or psychological evaluations for gun purchasers, perhaps because (as has been true in almost every case since Columbine High School) the killer didn't have to buy a gun. Everything he needed was right there in his own home. It was "locked up," sure, but that didn't seem to limit its availability.  One has to wonder a little about the culpability of the parents: granted that all teenagers are a little weird at times, didn't there have to be something just a little bit weirder in this case that a parent paying attention would have picked up on? Maybe there was some inkling that simply locking up weapons of mass destruction might not be adequate?

There was a little of the righteous indignation and misdirection of pointing to violence on TV and in video games as the ultimate cause of this shooting, or bemoaning the general decay in American morality. That rings a little hollow when one learns that this particular shooter was known as being religiously "devout," an ROTC member, and one who complained in his journal about the "sinners" at school who smoked cigarettes and "used the Lord's name in vain."

*   *   *   *

    Come on, let's get serious. This isn't about "Second Amendment rights," the need to protect yourselves from criminals (or The Government), to hunt, or for Society to "get right with God". It's only peripherally about gun purchase background checks or added security in schools. There's no way to stop all the crazies, but there is an immediate way to stop a lot of them, and to slow down the rest. That way is to limit the availability of firearms that are capable of rapidly firing large amounts of ammunition. This could be easily done, if the will was there. It is the epitome of the No-Brainer.

   By our collective non-action, we have reduced murder in our schools and other public venues to the status of "other news." Let's not make it less important than whether or not we can replenish our sausage supplies.


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