Days after the 17 minute school walk out in protest of gun violence and on the week of the Washington, DC March for Life on Saturday, March 24, another school shooting occurs. This time, the shooting occurred at Great Mills High school in a small town in southern Maryland with the shooter, a teenage student, shooting a 16 year old girl and a 14 year old boy—all students. They survived. The shooter died. Instead of an assault rifle, this time it was a Glock semiautomatic. Motive or target was yet undetermined. So far, it was the 17th school shooting since January 1, 2018, according to CNN.
After hearing about the school shooting in St. Mary’s County, Maryland on Tuesday, March 20, I recalled the first time when I appeared in a court case in St. Mary’s. The court house is located in Leonardtown, MD which is a very small sleepy little town. I am sure that nothing much in the way of crime happens in St. Mary’s. Nearby Leonardtown where the Circuit Court lies has a population of roughly 2,000. Great Mills is much larger with just over 8000 residents. These towns in St. Mary’s are hardly metropolitan cities or even near a metropolitan city. Once again, like Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High school, the area is one where a school shooting would likely appear to be out of the ordinary. Except in this day and time, no school is out of the ordinary for a shooting to occur. The cycle of wash, rinse, repeat when it comes to gun violence continues in schools, churches, movies, malls and on neighborhood streets. And the same cycle continues when it comes to actions taken by politicians to help stymie the gun violence in America.
As a former prosecutor, the story of guns, gun violence, shootings and death are not new news. According to the American Bar Association, in 2013, there were over 11,200 murders with firearms. African Americans suffered 57% of all murders with firearms, even though blacks only make up 13% of the U.S. population. In contrast with other countries, in 2010, there were 17 firearm deaths in Finland; 35 in Australia, 39 in England and Wales; 60 in Spain, 194 in Germany and 200 in Canada.
We know the problem. We also know some of the solutions. We just lack the ability to combine gun problem with solution in a meaningful way. There is no one solution size fits all when it comes to different types of gun violence. One thing is for sure, more guns are not the answer. Ditto for arming teachers.
Besides banning assault weapons, large capacity ammunition magazines, increasing age to purchase a firearm to age 21, denial of gun purchases due to serious mental health issues and domestic violence orders, tightening gun permit laws on three day wait at gun shows, restricting guns at sensitive places including colleges, churches, county owned property, we need to restrict sales of guns by private individuals.
We should also look to those other countries who have so few murders, albeit they don’t have the NRA and the second amendment to contend with. In 1996, both Britain and Australia had mass shootings. In 1996, a lone shooter entered a school in Scotland and killed 16 -five and six-year-old children plus a teacher. And in the same year in Australia, a man killed 35 people in a mass shooting at a cafe. Both Britain and Australia had a major crackdown on gun laws and passed sensible gun laws. Our legislators haven’t reached the boiling point where they will enact gun laws to save lives.
What appears different and just may work now is the pressure being exerted by the voices of young persons who have experienced gun violence all their lives. And those voices are not limited to school gun violence but to gun violence in the urban cities and in places like St. Mary’s County. No place is immune to gun violence. No one is safe.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial attorney, legal analyst and former prosecutor who is frequently seen in the media addressing gun laws and crimes.