By Sam Aebi
The death toll for the shooting at Marjory Douglas Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida is now confirmed at 17.
12 students and staff members shot dead inside the building, two on the school grounds, another on the street and the final two succumbing to gunshot wounds in a nearby hospital.
It’s at the point where this kind of event is no longer surprising or uncommon, but rather another tally mark on the United States of America’s wall of massacres due to gun violence.
The Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund has announced that there has been one shooting at a school in America per week on average since 2013.
Despite this shocking statistic, Wednesday’s tragedy in Parkland is the 18th school shooting so far this year.
That’s a firearm firing inside a school building or on school grounds once every two-and-a-half days.
Not all of these occurrences resulted in deaths or even injuries, but the fact that someone was able to enter school grounds and fire a live weapon 18 times since the year began is astounding.
Similarly, Gun Violence Archive is a not-for-profit corporation that records all gun-related deaths and injuries in the United States.
A quick read of Last 72 Hours shows all occurrences in that period; Wednesday’s tragedy is already at the end of the second page at the time of writing this article.
19-year-old gunman Nikolas Cruz has admitted to the shooting at his former high school after police arrested him yesterday afternoon.
Cruz entered the school grounds just before 3PM at AEST and pulled the fire alarm with the intention of firing upon students and staff as they left the building and moved toward the evacuation point.
He carried an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and possessed additional magazines for the weapon in his backpack.
Cruz was reported to be a possible threat prior to the tragedy and had a history of mental illness and online activity involving discussion of guns and mass shootings.
His expulsion from the high school for disciplinary problems has also been noted in motives for the attack, while other students had jokingly said that he might attack the school one day.
Despite these factors, the attack on Marjory Douglas Stoneman High yesterday was made possible because Cruz had access to a firearm.
The gun control debate in the United States has been long and ongoing, with firearms essentially forming part of American culture like meat pies do here in Australia.
While some progress has been made in recent years, overall gun violence statistics remain stagnant.
Prevention programs for children and young adults aim to alter behaviour and promote the solution of problems without violence.
While beneficial, these programs don’t aim to remove another factor of violence and violent crimes: the weapon used.
Intervention programs aiming to convince youths that they don’t need guns to feel safe, such as Operation Ceasefire and Project Exile, have previously proven to be effective.
Unfortunately, these programs were created in the early and mid-1990s in response to a sharp increase in youth firearm deaths.
In 2015, gun violence was responsible for 31% fewer deaths per 100,000 people when compared to 1993, but the prevalence of gun violence amongst youths in the 2010s still requires new intervention programs at a bare minimum.
Unsurprisingly, the United States government has so far mentioned making a difference following the tragedy, but are yet to make any obvious move toward gun control.
This inaction every time this type of event occurs has rightly riled many, with some citing the NRA’s sponsorship of the government as a deciding factor in the lack of change by the Republicans.
If nothing begins to change in the next two, five, or twenty times something horrific like this occurs, will we be treating the dead as people or just a common statistic amongst America’s high gun violence rate?
Only time will tell, but for the victims, there isn’t any time left.
Image source: Time