Vargas: While we continued to yell at each other, more children were killed

By Joe Vargas

I’m sitting here looking at my keyboard, wondering what to say. Another day, another school shooting. Young lives tragically lost. Families forever changed. More than a dozen injured by gunfire. All of them scarred for life.

Parkland is the 18th school shooting this year, according to the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. A debatable statistic depending on your definition of a school shooting.  But it doesn’t take away from the fact that American schools continue to rank amongst the most dangerous in the world.

There is no way to identify how many guns have been seized on school campuses that were never fired as well. Happens all the time.

Police investigators now have to process a large crime scene where most of the victims are kids. Those memories will be with them the rest of their lives.

Across the country, parents’ concerns have grown. They ask themselves, “could it happen at our school?”

The answer is yes. It can happen anywhere, anytime.

Law enforcement officers across the country have trained diligently to respond to active shooters, and in every case have responded expeditiously and with courage. The problem? Most school shootings last only minutes.

Even a cop on campus may not be enough.

I’ve cruised social media. Seems we would rather just yell at each other than come up with anything substantive and sensible that would actually protect our kids.

Some suggestions include making every school campus in America a secure encampment, complete with 12-foot chain-link fencing, barbed wire, and metal detectors. Also throw in some armed security personnel guarding every entrance to the school. Sounds a lot like a prison, doesn’t it?

There is a lot of conversation about gun control. I take that back—there is a lot of arguing about gun control.

Let’s ban all guns like Australia! I’m a realist. An estimated 300 million guns are in circulation. Guns are part of our culture and aren’t going anywhere soon.

Guns have been with us for hundreds of years. What has changed is our propensity to use them as a form of acting out and problem solving. That means that culturally we have changed, and not in a good way.

Let’s ban assault rifles! Well, most school shootings involve ordinary handguns, not assault rifles.

It’s a mental health issue! Yes, it is, but remember that the brooding, sulking teenage male has always existed. Anyone remember an armed teenage James Dean in “Rebel Without a Cause?” Even in 1955, teen male angst was an issue.

Is it worse? Are young male teens more willing to act out and express uncontrolled rage through violence? That’s a good question. Response to young men in crisis is definitely part of the conversation we need to be having.

Social media also needs to be part of the conversation. Does social media have an impact? Probably. But is there anything we can do about it?

In the meantime, what can we do right now? First and foremost, parents must lock up their guns. While in the Parkland incident, the rifle was likely owned by the suspect, that is the exception, not the norm.

A national “lock up your guns” education campaign needs to be a priority. It’s something we can do now that will have an immediate impact.

Another idea: have every parent sign an agreement at the beginning of the school year promising to lock up their firearms. I know it has no teeth, but at the very least it puts the issue in every parent’s face.

In the meantime, we have to stop debating and start conversing. There is a difference. The name calling, social media ranting, and political posturing isn’t getting us anywhere.

Our leaders are afraid to even suggest ideas, probably because they will get their butts kicked by either side of the political spectrum if they take a stand.

The best suggestion I saw was from a news interview with Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg: “We’re children. You guys are, like, the adults, you need to take some action and play a role. You need to get over your politics and get something done.”

Wise words from someone so young.

You would think, unlike teenagers, we would be able to behave like adults and come to a consensus on how best to protect our children. But then again, that’s a big part of the problem also.

We, collectively, have a lot of growing up to do. In the meantime, our children are demanding we take action.

Joe is a retired captain. He can be reached at