I’ve been asking myself this question. When will the violence end? The July 4 Highland Park shooting marked yet another blow in America’s bloated killing spree. The following day, Brookfield Zoo went on lockdown because the zoo’s crisis line got a call threatening violence. What is wrong with us? Why are we so broken? How did this happen? And...what can I do?
Since the Columbine Massacre on April 20, 1999, there have been 304 fatal school shootings (Vigderman and Turner 1). For those not very good with mental math, the Columbine shooting occurred 23 years ago. Politicians have had 23 years to figure this out. Twenty-three. If you’re counting killed or injured and considering all mass shootings, that number has increased to at least 2,000 people killed or injured since 1999. The FBI’s definition of a mass shooting is when an act of gun violence results in three or more deaths (Jackson 1).
To put this in perspective, 2,352 U.S. soldiers died in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014, and 2,750 people perished during the Sept. 11 attacks (Girardin 1) and (Bergen 1). It is downright disgusting to know that we are on pace to pass these numbers in the coming years.
My purpose here is not to further separate American views. However, we all can acknowledge we have a problem. We need a solution. We can’t keep hurting each other. One of the problems is that we are all so stuck in our ways. This report shows that a majority of those committing mass shootings are those who can buy a gun legally despite their mentally ill red flag.
I believe technology through the Internet, social media, Smartphones, etc., has dramatically increased anxiety, depression, and mental illness. My high school students have said they average over ten hours daily on their phones. Highland Park shooter Robert Crimo posted graphic videos on YouTube before the shooting. While YouTube did remove the videos afterward, why were they allowed to be published in the first place?
More than ever, we need to take mental illness seriously in this country. We have to prevent things before they escalate. Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland High School shooter, posted on YouTube that he would be a “professional school shooter.” But the social media problem continued as Cruz posed with guns on Instagram. The FBI was aware of the YouTube post, and Cruz was expelled from school for another matter as well. Despite this, he was still legally allowed to purchase his AR-15 rifle (BBC News 1).
So, going back to what can I do? It feels like we’re helpless. Doesn’t it? It’s like we’re waiting around for the next big bang to happen. So, I took matters into my own hands today, even in a small way. I emailed a couple of reporters in response to their story that ran on ABC 7 News asking why they had not reached out to YouTube or social media companies for comments about their restricted use policies. I am waiting to hear back. I’m tired of waiting around. We need to pressure our leaders to find a way to get our country back on track. We need to ask questions to find solutions to these problems.
When I go back to the classroom to teach my high school students this fall, I’m really going to concentrate on mental health. More than ever, I will focus on building a rapport with kids. As a journalism teacher, I’ll have them contact reporters and ask follow-up questions. I may have them reach out to the interest groups and companies to ask why they aren’t doing this or doing that. I am tired of waiting around for things to get done. Are you?
Kevin Kenealy received his journalism degree from Eastern Illinois University and his English secondary education certificate from Trinity Christian College. He is also currently pursuing a master's in English Literature from Southern New Hampshire University. He worked as a reporter and designer for several local newspapers before he started teaching English, AP Lit, and journalism at the high school level. He wrote his first book, 20 Something at age 23, a book of poetry about growing up in your 20s and trying to figure yourself out. The book was featured in a local newspaper and can be found in local libraries. He completed his first novel Life and Death at age 31, a horror/thriller book that received local attention and is also featured in suburban Chicago libraries. In his latest book, Neighborhood Watch, Kirkus Reviews calls it, "Superb characters headline this chilling, slow-burn crime tale."
BBC News. “Florida Shooting: FBI and Teachers Warned about Nikolas Cruz.” BBC News, 15 Feb. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-43071710.
Collins, Ben, et al. “Highland Park Shooting Person of Interest Left Online Trail of Violent Imagery.” NBC News, 5 July 2022, www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/chicago-shooting-person-interest-left-online-trail-violent-imagery-rcna36628.
Peter, Bergen. “September 11 Attacks | History, Summary, Timeline, Casualties, and Facts.” Encyclopedia Britannica, www.britannica.com/event/September-11-attacks. Accessed 7 July 2022.
Girardin, Pascal. “Defense Academy Excellence Casualty Aversion In Tepid War.” Connections: The Quarterly Journal, vol. 02, no. 1, 2003, pp. 99–124. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.11610/connections.02.1.13.
Jackson, Cali. “A Timeline of Mass Shootings in the U.S.” Abc4.Com, ABC, 25 May 2022, www.abc4.com/news/a-timeline-of-mass-shootings-in-the-u-s.
Thrush, Glenn. “What Do Most Mass Shooters Have in Common? They Bought Their Guns Legally.” The New York Times, 17 May 2022, www.nytimes.com/2022/05/16/us/politics/legal-gun-purchase-mass-shooting.html.
Vigderman, Alex, and Gabe Turner. “A Timeline of School Shootings Since Columbine.” Security.Org, 6 July 2022, www.security.org/blog/a-timeline-of-school-shootings-since-columbine.