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Florida’s Valentine’s Day School Shooting: An Avoidable American Tragedy

At least 17  students dead in Florida school shooting

Los Angeles, Feb. 25, 2018 A.Gary Singh

By Chandra K. Mittal, Ph.D.

Nothing is more tragic and horrific for a nation than the Valentine’s Day – a symbol of universal love and affection, turning into the Columbine Day – the day that witnessed the mass massacre of many innocent children at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999. But, unfortunately, that is exactly what played out last week on February 14, 2018, the Valentine’s Day, when the peaceful community of Parkland, Florida experienced the death of many young innocent students and staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School by a disturbed student. The incident devastated many families leaving permanent scars.  

Sadly, no sooner than the reports of Florida shooting began to spread, a predictable national reaction to the tragedy began to unfold, which followed a rehearsed script that always repeats itself every time similar incidence befalls America. These have included mass shootings at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Orlando Florida, Sutherland Springs Texas, Las Vegas, etc. As expected, Liberal voices began blaming availability of guns (most particularly the military-style assault weapons) while Conservatives sought refuge in the argument that security lapses at school contributed to the carnage.

On their part the party in power, the Republicans, controlling both houses of US Congress and the Presidency kept generally silent except expressing their “Thoughts and Prayers”, a much used (but symbolic) cliché to comfort the Florida victims. Even President Donald Trump only issued a guarded statement on the national tragedy as he avoided using the word “gun” in it, presumably not to offend the National Rifle Association (NRA), one of his ardent supporters.

Unfortunately, lost in this wrangling between various political factions and philosophies are the victims and their families who have been devastated forever. They expect and demand, from their government, the safety for their communities and schools. But that is nowhere in sight. All they see is political posturing and excuses. For example, Speaker Paul Ryan, the most powerful political figure in Washington, D.C who is third in line to succeed the US President, called any discussion about guns as a “knee-Jerk” reaction to the Florida tragedy. Sadly, for him there is no good time to have gun-debate.
Guns in America must be considered in the historic context. These are integral part of American folklore from the very discovery of this new world by the Europeans. In the beginning, guns were needed to hunt food or safety from predator animals in the wilderness. Later, successive local governments and administrations out-contracted their defense and safety services to private militias with armed-civilians. It is with this background that Founding Fathers included gun-ownership by Americans in the Bill of Rights (Second-Amendment) under the US Constitution.

Today, America has almost 300 Million guns in civilian possession that people use for hunting, sports, and personal safety. But it also has the 31st highest rate of gun-related deaths in the world ahead of all its counterparts in the industrialized nations. Many associate this high rate of gun-deaths to easy availability of guns.

Today’s debate on gun should not be about gun-Rights but that how to regulate the gun-ownership. The real issue is what types of guns are appropriate for civilians to own, and who should have rights to own it. The dispute revolves around the availability of military-style assault weapons capable of mass killings, such as used at Florida shooting. It is also being debated if guns should be allowed to be owned by people with mental illness and emotional disorders.

Regarding the sale of Assault Weapons, United States Congress has completely failed most Americans, majority of whom oppose such sales. This ban was originally signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1994, which expired in 2004. Since then all efforts to renew it, including the aftermath of 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, failed in the US Senate almost along the party lines. In general, Republicans favor sale of Assault Weapons, whereas Democrats oppose it. It may be time now to reconsider the ban on assault weapons in view of shooting in Florida, Texas and Las Vegas.

The issue of gun ownership by people with mental illness and emotional disorders is another important issue, but that gets scant respect from the lawmakers in Washington DC. Many argue that Constitutional Right to bear arms is so fundamental that people with mental sickness cannot be deprived of their gun-Rights. It is perhaps this excuse or belief that made President Donald Trump to repeal Obama-era gun background check for mentally ill persons. Incidentally, Florida mass shooter suffered from mental illness but was still able to legally purchase AR-15, a semiautomatic rifle, enabling him to cause mass carnage.

Advocates of unrestricted gun-Rights argue that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. This may be true, but then the role of human mind becomes critical in one’s decision to use the gun to kill. That brings to the cultural and societal influences that guide and direct behaviors of human beings. Today, many young children are becoming are becoming numb to human death as they regularly interact with violent television shows and video games.

Ultimately, America will have to change its stance on current gun-ownership laws to bring them in line with modern times. In addition, it is also time for American society to introspect itself culturally to see how killing instinct can be curtailed in young impressionable minds to prevent tragedies like Columbine, Sandy Hook, Sutherland Springs, Parkland, etc. in the future. ....Dr. Chandra Mittal is Professor at Houston Community College, and Co-Founder of Indo-American Association (IAA). Contact: drckmittal@ Twitter: @drchandramittal



Dr. Chandra K. Mittal,