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At least it’s not a school ...

We are living in the Age of Mass Shootings. What is it doing to us ... and who’s going to stop it?

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Photo by Will Porada / Unsplash

Monday morning, I received a text from my mom asking where I was. There was a shooting downtown, she said, and she wanted to make sure I was safe. I didn’t think much of this. My mom is the type of person who texts me when there’s a wreck near my house making sure I’m not involved.

Then my coworker came into my office and asked if I was seeing what was happening. At this point I realized something big was going on.

I checked the news and the early reports of the mass shooting at Old National Bank in Louisville. Multiple deaths, even more shot and fighting for their lives. To my horror, the first thought that crossed my mind was:

At least it’s not a school.

Good Lord, is this where I am?

The Age of Mass Shootings

I’ve written before about growing up in the age of mass shootings. My first exposure to the idea was in first grade when a Courier Journal writer came to our class and talked about the Standard Gravure shooting which had happened a few years earlier (a seemingly odd topic at the time). From elementary school on, mass shootings – and particularly school shootings – were a real concern, with guns, gangs, music, clothes, and Satan all being offered as reasons for the ever-present threat.

But nothing significant has changed. The shootings have kept coming. Year after year. Month after month. Day after day. Sometimes, it seemed, hour after hour.

People my age and especially younger have had no relief. We simply don’t remember a time when this wasn’t an issue, and it’s being instilled in younger and younger kids. A few weeks ago, my kindergartner and his young cousins were playing school together, taking turns being the teacher. At one point, they had a pretend intruder drill, where they turned out the lights and hid under a table until the bad guy was gone.

The next morning three elementary schoolers were murdered in Nashville.

Christ have mercy.

A personal connection

These shootings happen everywhere. Stores, schools, churches, bars, banks, parks, festivals, restaurants. Because of their universality, it seems impossible to be shocked and sad for every one. There are just too many of them to maintain that constant level of emotional despair.

The one exception for me is schools. I don’t know if this is because I’m a parent. Having kids changes literally every perspective you have, and I can’t imagine this is any different.

It’s possible this is because of personal connections. I’m an educator, and my mom, dad, sister, uncle, and two cousins all teach or work in schools. Not to mention my children and countless friends.

Those personal connections matter. When news broke of a second shooting at JCTC, I was more concerned than I was about the Old National shooting. Having worked and taught for years at JCTC, I still know several people on campus and wanted to make sure they were safe. Maybe I just know more people who work in schools than work in banks.

Maybe the answer is simply that while every death is tragic (and this shooting is an absolute tragedy), the death of a child is unfathomable for me.

So it was, to my later shame, that when I heard the mass shooting was at a bank, I breathed that horrific sigh of relief. It wasn’t a school …

What does that say about me? What does that say about us? Dead adults warrant no less grief. Yet here I was experiencing relief. But being relieved that a situation could have somehow been worse is not a state of mind I like living in.

Cowards and heroes

For decades, our leaders haven’t given a damn about our children. It should come as no surprise, then that with their power rising, our children don’t give a damn about our leaders.

To truly address a problem, you need to not only have an effective solution ready to go, you need the political will and opportunity to get that solution implemented. We know what laws work. What we are missing is the political will to do anything about it.

After endless waves of tragedy, it is clear at this point that those cowards currently in charge of our public policy have no intention of fixing anything. And younger generations are fed up with how things currently operate.

To truly address a problem, you need to not only have an effective solution ready to go, you need the political will and opportunity to get that solution implemented. We know what laws work. What we are missing is the political will to do anything about it.

After endless waves of tragedy, it is clear at this point that those cowards currently in charge of our public policy have no intention of fixing anything. And younger generations are fed up with how things currently operate.

Since 2019, the number of people killed by guns has increased by 23%. But for kids, the number has increased by 50%. In Louisville alone, more than 1,000 people 25 years old and under have been shot since 2020 – nearly one a day for three years.

Kids, teenagers, and young adults have spent their whole lives watching their leaders burn down the world around them. For decades, our leaders haven’t given a damn about our children. It should come as no surprise then that, with their power rising, our children don’t give a damn about our leaders.

They are here. They are voting. And they are coming for every last cowardly official who is too afraid to do the right thing. And in the process of saving themselves, they may wind up saving the rest of us. (Not that we deserve it.)

Thank God.

--30--



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Neal Turpin

Dr. Neal Turpin is a City Planner, and also part-time faculty in U of L's Department of Political Science. He lives in Louisville with his wife and children. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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