During the 2017–2018 school year, 26 students died in school shootings. All were high-school students. Parkland and Santa Fe accounted for 22 of those deaths. There were two more at Marshall County High School and one each at Great Mills High School and Huffman High School. An additional eight teachers and staff members were killed.

High school-age children were more than 77 times more likely to be killed by someone with a gun outside of school than they were to be victims of a shooting in a school.

Yet children are afraid to go to school. Why?

Because we have made them afraid. But that’s okay; we have made ourselves afraid and dragged our children along with us.

We have created a “gun culture” out of thin air.

When I was in high school, gun ownership was even more widespread than it is today. Military-surplus Garand semi-automatic rifles and M1 carbines capable of accepting 30-round magazines were available at places like F.W. Woolworth’s and through the mail order ads found in countless magazines. That’s right: in most states a person could mail-order a gun and have it delivered by the mailman. No signature required. A person could walk into a guns hop or sporting goods store, select a gun, pay for it and walk out. No federal forms to fill out, no background checks. In the state in which I lived, it was possible to buy a handgun at 18 and walk down the street with it in plain sight. A policeman would probably have stopped me and asked why I was carrying a gun down main street, but it wasn’t illegal.

Come hunting season, guns were plentiful. Some students even brought them to school so their fathers could pick them up and go straight to the hunting lease.

We had semi-automatic rifles. In fact, the semi-automatic rifle was introduced for American hunters in 1903, decades before the Army began developing its own semi-automatic rifle. A magazine-fed rifle capable of holding up to 20 rounds was introduced in 1911. We even had AR-15s; they went on sale in 1964. More traditionally styled semi-automatic rifles, like the Remington 740, were more popular because they were more powerful than the AR-15 and could be used for deer and larger game.

President John F. Kennedy was a member of the NRA. Older elementary school children had their own rifles, given to them by their fathers.

It seems to me that that was a real gun culture. Incidentally, the doors on our classrooms had locks, too.

What we have today is hysteria-fueled discord that ignores reality.

In 2014, following one of the biggest gun-buying sprees in American history, the U.S. homicide rate dropped to the lowest point since 1963.

Yet we still worship the boogeyman we have produced, each in our own way. One side by using it to scare people, often to advance an agenda; the other side to spur resistance to all new restrictions.

So you were nervous about a guy with a bag in a theater. Why now? That guy could have been there in any movie theater you have ever visited in your whole life. Or any restaurant.

Are you afraid of him or the boogeyman? Why not be afraid of anyone with an untucked shirt, a jacket or a purse? Handguns have been used in more mass shootings than any other type of gun. Seung-Hui Cho used a Glock 19 and a Walther P22 in his killing spree at Virginia Tech. He even passed background checks to get them. Jennifer San Marco carried her Smith & Wesson Model 915 in her purse when she killed eight people at the postal processing center in Goleta, California.

Saying that even one child’s death is too many is a straw argument. If we really felt that way, private swimming pools would be anathema. So would bicycles. More high school-aged children died in bike accidents than in school shootings and nine times as many drowned.

We don’t have a gun culture; we have a fear culture. We refuse to accept that life has risks. When I was young, there were child abductions resulting in the child’s death. We watched films about it in school and judging by the ages of the cars in that film, it was old when we saw it. The police and our parents warned us not to take rides or candy from strangers and we went back to our normal lives; riding bicycles, swimming in pools and playing with toy guns.

So if you wish for a rational discussion, you need to be rational about the problem and what might be done to address it.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

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