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Friday, February 15, 2008

School Shootings: A Fascinating Timeline

Just now, I decided to do a search online to see if my previous blog post was available via Google yet. It was. That pleased me. But I was even more pleased to find a forum post which made my point very well, even though that wasn't the intent of the person who made the post.

Here's the link to the forum. The particular post (by someone known as "tker") contained the following list, which was ostensibly evidence that the "right to bear arms" was trumped by the need to protect people from mass shootings:

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University of Texas at Austin massacre Austin, Texas, United States August 1, 1966

Orangeburg Massacre Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States February 8, 1968

Kent State shootings Kent, Ohio, United States May 4, 1970

Jackson State killings Jackson, Mississippi, United States May 14-15, 1970

California State University, Fullerton Library Massacre Fullerton, California, United States July 12, 1976

Cleveland Elementary School shooting San Diego, California, United States January 29, 1979

Parkway South Junior High School shooting Saint Louis, Missouri, United States January 20, 1983

Stockton massacre Stockton, California, United States January 17, 1989

University of Iowa shooting Iowa City, Iowa, United States November 1, 1991

Simon's Rock College of Bard shooting Great Barrington, Massachusetts, United States December 14, 1992

Lindhurst High School shooting Marysville, California, United States May 1, 1992

East Carter High School shooting Grayson, Kentucky, United States January 18, 1993

Richland High School shooting Lynnville, Tennessee, United States November 15, 1995

Frontier Junior High shooting Moses Lake, Washington, United States February 2, 1996

Bethel High School shooting Bethel, Alaska, United States February 19, 1997

Pearl High School shooting Pearl, Mississippi, United States October 1, 1997

Heath High School shooting West Paducah, Kentucky United States December 1, 1997

Jonesboro massacre Jonesboro, Arkansas, United States March 24, 1998

Parker Middle School Shooting Edinboro, Pennsylvania April 24, 1998

Thurston High School shooting Springfield, Oregon, United States May 21, 1998

Columbine High School massacre Littleton, Colorado, United States April 20, 1999

Heritage High School shooting Conyers, Georgia, United States May 20, 1999

Buell Elementary School shooting Mount Morris Township, Michigan, United States February 29, 2000

Santana High School shooting Santee, California, United States March 5, 2001

Granite Hills High School shooting El Cajon, California March 22, 2001

Appalachian School of Law shooting Grundy, Virginia, United States January 16, 2002

John McDonogh High School Shooting New Orleans, LA, United States April 14, 2003

Red Lion Area Junior High School shootings Red Lion, Pennsylvania, United States April 24, 2003

Rocori High School shootings Cold Spring, Minnesota, United States September 24, 2003

Red Lake High School massacre Red Lake, Minnesota, United States March 21, 2005

Campbell County High School shooting Jacksboro, Tennessee November 8, 2005

Pine Middle School shooting Reno, Nevada, United States March 14, 2006

Platte Canyon High School shooting Bailey, Colorado, United States September 27, 2006

Weston High School shooting Cazenovia, Wisconsin September 29, 2006

Amish school shooting Nickel Mines, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, United States October 2, 2006

Virginia Tech massacre Blacksburg, Virginia, United States April 16, 2007

Delaware State University shooting Dover, Delaware, United States September 21, 2007

SuccessTech Academy shooting Cleveland, Ohio, United States October 10, 2007

Notre Dame Elementary shooting Portsmouth, Ohio, United States February 7, 2008

Louisiana Technical College shooting Baton Rouge, LA, United States February 8, 2008

Mitchell High School shooting Memphis, TN, United States February 11, 2008

E.O. Green Junior High School shooting Oxnard, CA, United States February 12, 2008

McNair High School shooting Atlanta, GA, United States February 12, 2008

Northern Illinois University shooting DeKalb, Illinois, United States February 14, 2008

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It's funny how two people can see the same statistics and draw altogether different conclusions. For instance, "tker" sees the preceding list as proof that this country needs more restrictive gun control laws. But I don't see it that way.

What I see when I look at the preceding list is the dates. Specifically, I see the fact that only 4 of the 44 events (less than 10%) occurred before January of 1973, when abortion was legalized. After abortion was legalized, there was a dramatic increase in such events.

Growing up in the sixties, I remember seeing print ads for .22 rifles, in magazines marketed mainly to kids --- specifically, in the magazine Boy's Life, which was marketed to Boy Scouts. But you know, I don't remember regularly reading news stories about schoolyard shootings. So it seems rather specious to me to say that the problem is the result of increased availability of guns. It's much harder to get a gun now than it was back in the 60's, but gun control has been a dismal failure when it comes to preventing such massacres.

On the other hand, it seems entirely plausible to argue that the easy availability of abortion has effectively taught our young people that innocent human life is cheap and expendable.

Of course, it would be simplistic to blame legal abortion alone. Other factors have also contributed to the decline in respect for human life. Violent video games, for example, have caused many young people to see killing as one big and harmless game. In the name of "realism" or "harmless catharsis," death metal music, rap music and hip hop music have saturated our culture with violent and profane messages which have caused people to become inured to the destructive effects of violence.

Nevertheless, when it comes to affecting people's attitudes, real violence trumps simulated violence every time. The violence in video games and movies and popular music is (usually) simulated. The violence that takes place in your friendly neighborhood abortuary is all too real. If you don't believe me, ask them for permission to examine the contents of their trash dumpsters at the end of every working day.

If viewing the mutilated, dismembered bodies of unborn children isn't enough to make you retch, then your stomach is stronger than mine.

2 comments:

Courtney said...

I had never thought about the correlation between legalized abortion and increased violence in schools. That is a good point. I would definitely blame the lack of prayer in schools though.

Mark Pettigrew said...

Thanks for your comment, Courtney.

When you refer to "the lack of prayer in schools," I'm assuming that you are referring to teacher-led prayers, which were banned by the Supreme Court in the "Murray vs. Curlett" case in 1963.

There's still nothing to prohibit students who believe in God from praying in schools. Not only are they able to pray privately before or after class (or even during class, if they're discreet about it), but there was nothing in that 1963 case to prevent groups of students from gathering together on school property in order to pray with one another.

I distinctly remember meeting with such a group on a regular basis when I attended Parkview High School in Springfield, MO from 1973 to 1974, which was obviously about a decade after the Murray vs. Curlett case was decided. As I recall, our group was sponsored by a teacher, since that was a requirement for all private clubs at the school; but it wasn't led by a teacher, it was led solely by other students.

Over the years, there have been some notorious cases in which schools, school administrators and teachers have overreacted to Murray vs. Curlett, thinking that it was better to be safe than sorry when it came to protecting themselves against lawsuits. Consequently, students have sometimes been denied their Constitutional rights in the name of adherence to the law. Some kids have been denied the right to pray with one another, or to carry Bibles to school, or to wear garments which promoted Christianity. However, unless I'm very much mistaken, the vast majority of those situations have been rectified eventually as a result of the due diligence of people such as Christian attorney Jay Sekulow, who has specialized in cases involving the protection of religious liberty.

There's no question that the Christian consensus has eroded in this country. Some would argue that the aforementioned Supreme Court decision caused the erosion. I'm more inclined to think that a substantial amount of erosion had already taken place by 1963, and that the banning of teacher-led prayers was a reflection of that erosion as much as it was a cause of the erosion.

While some Christians seem to believe that teacher-led prayers ought to be allowed, others would point out that the only way to do that without violating the Bill of Rights would be to offer equal time to teachers who were Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Scientologists and believers in other religions. Any prayer which was so neutral as to avoid causing offense to any conceivable individual or group would likely be so generic that it would be devoid of any meaningful content. Such a prayer, in my opinion, would therefore be pointless.

There may be rare exceptions, but in general we are well past the point where the local school marm can lead an entire class of kids, confident in the belief that every one of those kids comes from a Christian home.

As Christians, we have an obligation to love our neighbors (including our unbelieving neighbors), and that includes the obligation to respect their feelings when it comes to the question of how their kids ought to be raised.

That doesn't mean that we shouldn't evangelize our neighbors (even though some of them would beg to differ), but it certainly does mean that we ought not to use the compulsory power of the state as an evangelistic tool. History and common sense ought to teach us that "conversions" which are the result of compulsion are seldom if ever authentic. So even if the Supreme Court had not outlawed such compulsory strategies, it seems to me that we as Christians would do well to focus, instead, on evangelistic methods which respect the rights of our neighbors to ultimately choose their own religious beliefs, no matter how wrong those beliefs might be. Outward compliance is not the goal. The goal is to change hearts.

Fortunately, the illegalization of teacher-led prayers has not historically hindered the Holy Spirit from moving among young people. For example, the Jesus Movement of the 1970s took place during an era when young people were rebelling against traditional values in numerous ways. Yet, the Jesus Movement helped to rescue the Church from a stale adherence to tradition for its own sake. New believers in Christ came to understand the Christian faith in a way which was almost unprecedented. It may even be, ironically, that the loss of a Christian consensus played a role in that revival.

There's reason to believe that the Church sometimes thrives best during conditions of persecution. That obviously doesn't mean that we should seek persecution. But it does mean that even the dark cloud of persecution has a silver lining.

Rather than waste time trying to return to a simpler time when public school teachers could openly pray with their students at the beginning of the school day, we ought to pray for a revival which, like the Jesus Movement of the seventies, will render such considerations irrelevant.