Let’s start with a correction.
Santa Fe was not “the second-deadliest school shooting in US history.” It wasn’t even the second-deadliest high school shooting. It was the fifth-deadliest.
- Virginia Tech (April 16, 20007) 27 students, five faculty members. Glock 19 and Walther P22 pistols.
- Sandy Hook Elementary School (December 14, 2012) 20 students, two teachers, two teacher’s aides, school principal, school psychologist. Bushmaster rifle.
- Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (February 14, 2018) 14 students, one teacher, and three staff members. Smith & Wesson M&P-15 rifle.
- Columbine High School (April 20, 1999) 12 students, one teacher. Handguns, sawed-off shotguns.
- Santa Fe High School (May 18, 2018) Eight students, two teachers. Remington 870 12 gauge pump shotgun, Rossi .38-caliber revolver.
I am making no comments on the incidents themselves; I am simply correcting a factual error.
Professor Watson is correct and raises a subject I have become reluctant to mention: our fixation on “gun violence” and our national delusion that simpleminded legislative nostrums can somehow fix the problem of violence.
The deadliest school killing in U.S. history remains the Bath School Disaster (May 18, 1927) in which 35 students and two teachers were killed. Andrew Kehoe used a combination of dynamite and pyrotol, a surplus military incendiary, to collapse one wing of the schoolhouse in Bath, Michigan. Kehoe had a bolt-action Winchester rifle with him but it was used to detonate explosives in his truck, which caused the additional deaths of another student, the school superintendent, the town postmaster, and a retired farmer. Two more students wounded in the original explosion later succumbed to their injuries. Fifty-eight people were wounded.
In all, Kehoe murdered 38 children; more than Adam Lanza and Nikolas Cruz combined. In a case of very cruel irony, the eight-year-old boy killed in when Kehoe’s truck blew up had just survived the schoolhouse blast.
I remain reluctant to speculate on possibilities. Not because I can’t imagine them but because I want no part in fostering them. Sales of dynamite are regulated and the supply of pyrotol, which farmers continued to use to remove large tree trunks, was exhausted 90 years ago.
Suffice it to say the possibilities exist.
As far as the differences in response to the Parkland and Santa Fe shootings, it wasn’t just a matter of fatigue.
Since I live less than 60 miles from Santa Fe, perhaps I can provide a bit of “local” insight.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is in Broward County, which bills itself as “the most Democratic county in Florida.” In 2016, Hillary Clinton received 66.5% of the votes.
Santa Fe High School is in Galveston County, which went for Trump by 59.3%. It borders Harris County, which was carried by Mrs. Clinton, but despite its proximity, Santa Fe is far more conservative than Houston. Even among the students at Santa Fe High, there was less support for gun control laws than there was in Parkland.
The cool reception received by gun control activists was due in part to the media circus that followed the Parkland shooting. The residents of Santa Fe (and Texas itself) did not want a repeat.
The March for Our Lives actually got more traction in Houston and even there, it made little more than a ripple. Houston’s mayor was more receptive than the mayor of Santa Fe.
But the student body at Santa Fe High School had more gun rights supporters and there were more parents who were gun rights supporters.
When the governor of Texas held conferences on the Santa Fe incident, large advocacy groups were excluded. Each side of the gun debate was allowed a single representative and only a Texas-based organization could send one. The media was excluded from the actual discussions. Everytown for Gun Safety and the NRA were represented by their state affiliates.
What emerged was also very different. Unlike Florida, where the age to purchase a rifle was raised from 18 to 21, waiting periods were expanded and other measures were enacted, only proposals for red flag laws and raising the maximum child age for parental liability from 16 to 17. Since Dimitrios Pagourtzis was 17, his parents could not be held criminally liable for negligence.
The governor’s support for red flag laws was conditioned on compliance with constitutional standards, which eliminated most of the proposals.
Shaming only works when the intended target group accepts the thesis of their accusers. Look at the controversy that currently surrounds statues and emblems of the Confederacy. For years, only birds paid much attention to those statues. It wasn’t until some people made it an issue that it even became a big deal. Then it was seen as an attack on a group’s heritage and a vigorous battle continues.
It’s much the same with gun owners. They have done nothing wrong; they have not hurt anyone and they don’t understand why anyone should want to shame them. The shamers get angry that the shamees aren’t feeling ashamed and the shamees get angry that the shamers won’t just leave them alone.
It is one of the basic facts of life that if you stir up a hornet’s nest you are going to get stung. If you’re stupid enough to keep stirring, the hornets will keep stinging.
There are about 82 million hornets in the United States. Nearly 17 million of them have concealed stinger permits.
I have a hunch that shaming itself may have run its course; too many shamers joined the caravan and overloaded Americans’ capacity to give a damn.
By the end of 2018, I doubt there was more than a handful of proud white male gun owners in the South who felt the least bit repentant about much of anything — or actually believed they had done anything wrong.
Remember: Ostracism is effective only if the victim wants to be part of the group.