Sandy Hook, Parkland, Uvalde… : the sinister cadence of mass murders in schools | International

Members of the March for Our Lives group, survivors of the Parkland shooting, in March 2018 at a march in Washington.
Members of the March for Our Lives group, survivors of the Parkland shooting, in March 2018 at a march in Washington.JIM WATSON (AFP)

Although the installation of metal detectors and the adoption of other security measures such as video cameras or the search of backpacks have contributed to the decrease in the number of shootings in educational centers, the massacre that Salvador Ramos perpetrated this Tuesday in an institute Uvalde (Texas), which has left at least 18 children and two adults dead, bears the signature of a tragedy foretold. Mass shootings have become a sinister cadence in schools, institutes and universities in the US. Only in the month of last September two were registered, also in the State of Texas, after the total or partial closure of the centers by the pandemic temporarily stopped the bleeding. On the last day of November, the trend resumed with a deadly attack in Oxford, Michigan, when a 15-year-old student killed four high school classmates. The boy used a weapon that had been legally purchased by his father, and the authorities announced that from then on the parents or guardians would be charged and tried for the criminal actions of the minors in their care.

The one in Michigan was by no means the most serious; the cases of Sandy Hook or Parkland, scene of two separate shootings with a shocking trail of fatalities, have remained in the memory of both parents, fearful of a bloodbath in the centers their children attend, and those who they defend much stricter regulation of access to guns, a very bitter political and ideological battle despite calls for action by, for example, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

On December 14, 2012, a young man named Adam Lanza killed 26 people, twenty students, mostly young children, and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. To the balance must be added the lives of Lanza, who committed suicide, and his mother, whom he had killed before undertaking the massacre as if he had to get rid of an obstacle. It was a Friday, in the midst of the usual anticipation that precedes the weekend. Lanza used a nine millimeter, like the Oxford murderer, although he also fired a rifle owned by his mother as a preamble against the entrance doors to the center. His action, premeditated according to the prosecution, became the deadliest shooting in an elementary or secondary school in the US, and the fourth committed by a single person. In the center there were more than 450 children enrolled and the security protocols – a video camera – had been updated shortly before the massacre.

On February 14, 2018, Valentine’s Day, a sullen and gun-obsessed former student killed 17 people (two more than Columbine in 2009, including the two teenage assailants) at a Parkland, Florida, high school. a center with 3,200 students that had expelled the murderer a year earlier for indiscipline and problematic behavior. The shooter threw smoke bombs to create confusion, fired an assault rifle and was detained outside the school after an uneasy hour-long wait. Nikolas Cruz, 19, had started a junior military training program after leaving high school, Pentagon sources reported at the time.

Cruz shot outside and inside the educational compound, indiscriminately, at children and teachers or auxiliary personnel. He had threatened his classmates in the last few months that he attended the institute, and his supervisor had prohibited him from entering the center with a backpack, according to local media. None of the survivors was greatly surprised that Cruz, due to his problematic behavior, was the author of such carnage: “Many had said it before. Everybody had foreseen it”, said a student protected by anonymity. Cruz had posted threatening messages on the networks, but nobody noticed the potential risk that his anger with the world posed.

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According to FBI records, from the Columbine massacre in 1999 to 2016, fifty attacks or attempted attacks with a firearm were recorded in US schools, with a balance of 141 dead. Including the Parkland shooting, in the first month and a half of 2018 there were 18 incidents involving firearms at schools across the country.

Parkland’s attack marked a turning point, for better and for worse. The second, because months after the event, two survivors ended up committing suicide, in the same week. The label #17plus2 was then popularized to collect the last victims, afflicted according to psychologists by survivor’s guilt syndrome. They were a young woman whose closest friend was killed in the shooting, and the father of one of the students killed. The only consequence positive of the tragedy was the formation and mobilization of an activist group, March for Our Lives, made up of students from the institute and which is still active, as he recalled on May 14 when he criticized the poor control of weapons that, according to the group , makes these events possible, after the shooting in a supermarket in Buffalo, with ten dead.

In the last two decades there have been too many cases. From the first of consideration, the Columbine massacre, through Virginia Tech in 2007, when a student, Seung Hui Cho, killed 32 people, including students and teachers, before committing suicide. Nine dead at a school on an Ojibwe Indian reservation two years earlier; seven, including the killer, at an Illinois college in 2008; another seven in 2012 at a private university in Oakland; ten people, including attacker, in Oregon in 2015; a Santa Fe high school, the same year as the Parkland tragedy. Many cases are still going on, as the pain of survivors and relatives of the victims persists, and the string of legal actions that follows. Gunmaker Remington will compensate families of Sandy Hook massacre victims after reaching a $73 million settlement in February with nine families who lost loved ones in the shooting. The reason for the compensation was his responsibility for selling an assault rifle to civilians.

Among the testimonies collected after an event of this type, the phrases that the surviving students dedicate to the instruction they receive periodically to know how to face and repel an attack with a firearm always stand out. Going under tables, barricading themselves in classrooms with locked doors, locking themselves in bathrooms… protection is already a compulsory subject in the US and American children regularly participate in mock shootings. A protocol that the survivors boast of having learned and that, in Uvalde, has not been able to save the lives of 14 children and one adult.

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