School Shootings and Short-Term Memory

Drawing of a gun on a blackboard

Drawing of a gun on a blackboard
When Alan Shepard became the first American launched into outer space, folks were glued to their television sets. After John Glenn became the first man to orbit the Earth, there were parades and celebrations. But soon, public interest in the Gemini space program waned, and most people couldn’t name the latest man into space or tell you how many orbits Glenn had made. It seems that we tend to develop short-term memory when it comes to recalling momentous events, whether they be glorious or tragic in nature. And that brings me to our nation’s growing number of school shootings.

According to the Washington Post, there have been 386 mass school shootings thus far in this century, and that includes an all-time annual high of 46 in 2022. In all, 356,000 students have experienced gun violence over the past two decades alone, so you’d think we would at least be able to recall the location of the worst of these mass murders… but we can’t. In the days following each heinous incident, the media frequently reminds us of how many children were killed, but then, the facts and faces wane from our collective memory. At first, politicians vow to enact reforms, then the outrage dissipates and talk of reform disappears.

For what it’s worth, here’s a list of the worst mass shootings at schools since Columbine. Perhaps this can serve as a reminder of what happened and why it’s so important that we do something to keep this list from growing.

March 21, 2005 — Ten students were killed, and seven others injured when a 16-year-old assailant opened fire at Red Lake Senior High School, on Minnesota’s Red Lake Indian Reservation.

October 2, 2006 — A 37-year-old milk delivery man dropped his kids off at school, then drove to Pennsylvania’s Amish West Nickel Mine School, and killed 6 children while wounding five others.

April 16, 2007 — A 23-year-old man murdered 33 students and wounded 23 others while classes were in session at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. The gunman subsequently killed himself.

February 14, 2008 — A former graduate student spent his Valentine’s Day killing six people and injuring 21 others at Northern Illinois University. 

April 12, 2012 — A 43-year-old former student returned to his alma mater, Oikos University, a Korean Christian school in Oakland California, and murdered seven students, injuring three others.

December 14, 2012 — In what was thought to be the most heinous of mass school shootings, a lone gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, and killed 28 children, all under the age of 10, and as young as 5 years old. 

June 7, 2013 — After killing his father and brother, a 23-year-old man murdered six students and wounded four others at Santa Monica College in southern California.

October 24, 2014 — A 15-year-old boy murdered four students at Marysville Pilchuck High School in Washington.

October 1, 2015 — In Roseburg, Oregon, a 26-year-old killed 10 students and injured nine others at Umpqua Community College. The gunman then shot himself.

November 14, 2017 — A 44-year-old man freed on bail for two previous felonies opened fire in Rancho Tehama school in California, and murdered six students while wounding 18 others. He then killed himself.

February 14, 2018 — Another Valentine’s Day was marred by unthinkable violence when a 19-year-old man with a history of disciplinary problems walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida and killed 17 students while wounding 17 others. 

May 18, 2018 — Not more than two months after the Parkland massacre, an assailant used a shotgun and a revolver to murder 10 students and injure 14 others at Sante Fe High School in Houston Texas. 

May 24, 2022 — Twenty-two students were shot to death and 18 others injured at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Delays in responding to gunfire led to a trial and national debate over the role of School Resource Officers. 

February 13, 2023 — An 18-year-old boy murdered four students and wounded five others at Michigan State University. The assailant was subsequently killed by police.

Given that most of us can’t name even half of the schools from this list, it’s not surprising that our elected officials in Washington also suffer from short-term memory when it comes to mass school shootings. The idea of a ban on assault weapons has been kicked around for years, but even if such a ban went into effect today it wouldn’t prevent more school massacres. That’s because there are more guns in circulation than there are people in America, so guns are readily available. Also, not all school shootings are done with assault-style rifles. The solution is to beef up school security, and that means installing electronically locking doors, metal detectors, and posting an SRO in every school.

Until local, state, and federal governments are willing to spend the money to enact these reforms, then students will continue to be murdered, and we will continue to forget where they took their last breath.

facebook marketing