List Of School Shootings In The United States By Death Toll

Our current forms of collective action on guns have failed us.

That is the title and content of an actual Wikipedia page. We have suffered enough school shootings in the United States that we can rank them by the number of dead children and teachers. Of course, those mass shootings are merely a subset of mass shootings, which itself is a small subset of murders by bullet, which are a subset of death by guns.

At the moment that Monday’s murders in Boulder, Colorado occurred, many Americans were already beyond sick and tired of mass shootings. We already left long behind us the outrage against empty expressions of thoughts and prayers. Our tank of outrage is running very low, in the face of repeatedly failed efforts of the federal government to pass the most basic constraints on guns, even in the face of large public support for these restrictions. Only a few days after the murders in Atlanta and Boulder, it is possible for someone in Atlanta to walk in a store, armed with a shotgun, an AR-15, four pistols, and a knife, and not necessarily having committed any crime until the moment that he kills someone with one of these weapons. We also live in a country with absurd definitions of deadly weapons that classify the firearm that the Boulder murderer used to kill 10 people, with no one left wounded, as a pistol, not a rifle, therefore making it easier for someone like him to acquire it. Even if the weapon had been classified as an assault rifle, a Colorado court struck down Boulder’s ban on those weapons within its jurisdiction just 10 days before the King Soopers massacre.

We have passed into a realm of helplessness, and not just about guns. We already feel helpless in the face of a pandemic, rising authoritarianism, racism, and the continued inability of government to do many of its most basic tasks, such as tending to the infrastructure on which we all depend. But guns concentrate some of the most powerful feelings of helplessness. What can we do? Who is blocking our ability to prevent the murder of more children in their classrooms, more immigrant women going through their work day, more people on a brief errand to the grocery store, more people whom we have collectively failed to protect?

We know who, but it is worth noting the absurdity of letting them continue to block any change. Today, we are helpless to fix something that does happen, death by guns, including mass shootings, because our efforts are hostage to something that rarely happen, the “good guy with a gun” who stops a would-be mass murderer, and something that never happens, a tyrannical government that can only be fought by force of arms. Not only has the black helicopters and FEMA concentration camps not materialized, but even if those ridiculous fantasies ever became fact, the combined military and police forces of the United States would easily dispatch any motely collection of gun enthusiasts. We are hostage to juvenile fantasies, purveyed by the same people who spread and consume equally juvenile fantasies. Masks are a “personal choice,” not a necessary mechanism to curb a deadly virus. Shadowy forces are trying to cancel Christmas (which is the very plot of movies made for children). The rest of the world only respects force, so the United States needs to bomb someone on occasion, just to prove our virility and ruthlessness. Democracy is an apocalyptic choice between Manichean alternatives. Politics is a pose, an excuse for trolling, not a duty to accomplish things. And so on.

This is the worldview of thirteen year olds, not serious adults. In fact, many thirteen year olds have a more realistic, pragmatic outlook than exhibited by the people I am describing. And yet, we remain hostage to overgrown adolescents who, in the case of the fetishization of guns, are dedicated to the preservation of the things that do not happen, in spite of the high death toll of the things that do.

This is what makes the current diseases of American democracy — anti-majoritarianism, polarization, and yes, let’s be honest with ourselves, some sincere disdain for the very the concept of democracy among a lot of Americans — as important as they are to overcome. We use polite language, such as “reforms,” to describe the most essential steps needed to remove the weight of helplessness and despair from our hearts.

In the case of guns in particular, there is no alternative path to resolution, at least in the short term. There is no collective action, outside of government, to deal with the problem. We can support charities that help the needy, organize food drives, help homeless and jobless people get on their feet again through private efforts. There is no private path to limiting the threat of firearms. We cannot disarm our neighbors, or require them to practice better gun safety.

Individually, all we can do, beyond supporting particular groups or politicians who have yet to solve this problem, is make the juvenile fantasies on which our current gun laws look as ridiculous as they are. In my work, as well as outside it, I occasionally develop “serious games,” ways of educating people through a simulated experience about important topics in public affairs. For the last couple of years, I’ve toyed with an idea for a game that would put the whole notion of “a good guy with a gun” to the test, and show it for how unlikely a scenario it really is. Unfortunately, upheaval in personal life and the demands of having a day job have made it difficult to pursue. Still, I may get to work on it again soon.

However, as with many other people in my situation — outraged at the death toll of gun violence, looking for something to do that’s more than sending money to an advocacy group — it is hard to do it alone. That is why we need some new formula for collective action on gun violence, beyond what has repeatedly failed to prevent what happened in Boulder earlier this week. Other countries have taken effective action, so we should wear our shame around our necks until we can make some significant progress here.

I do not have an answer for what form that collective action should take. However, we need to make juvenile fantasies more unacceptable than they are today. These are not questions of differing opinions of policy, such as what the unintended consequences of what might happen if we limit clip sizes or ammunition purchases. This is a question of how to deal with unwavering adherence to dangerous myths. Just as we once made bigotry against women, minorities, LGBTQ citizens, Catholics, atheists, and other groups less acceptable, so too do we need to make indifference and inaction less tolerable, in the face of preventable murders. We cannot keep living fearing who will die next, such as the 10 people dead just a 30 minutes drive from my own home. Not only must this change of heart happen, but we must be able to express it through our institutions of collective action. Alone, we are helpless.

FILED UNDER: General, , , ,
Kingdaddy
About Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy is returning to political blogging after a long hiatus. For several years, he wrote about national security affairs at his blog, Arms and Influence, under the same pseudonym. He currently lives in Colorado, where he is still awestruck at all the natural beauty here. He has a Ph.D in political science that is oddly useful in his day job.

Comments

  1. Nightcrawler says:

    Unfortunately, I have about zero faith that anything will change, because Americans simply don’t care if other Americans die. They don’t care if they die of COVID-19. They don’t care if they’re murdered. They. Don’t. Care. Death means nothing to these awful people.

    Before the apocalypse, I liked running marathons and attending comic cons. I also really wanted to go see David Duchovny’s next music tour; I couldn’t afford to go the last time he toured the U.S.

    Not only have I crossed those to-do’s off my list, I’m not even going to go to the grocery store anymore. I’ll just keep doing curbside pickup. It’s not safe to go to public places or attend large public events in this country.

    I will never again attend another large event in the U.S., only in Canada or overseas. Toronto isn’t much further than Chicago.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    Americans were already beyond sick and tired of mass shootings.

    And conservatives refuse to believe, or at least pretend not to believe, that’s the real reason. We liberals really just want control, or socialism, or something. How hard is it to believe, as you say, that we’re sick of this.

    I don’t know how many times I, or someone else, have said we have thirty thousand shooting deaths every year ( I think it’s now forty thousand) and had a conservative reply that’s not true, most of them were suicides. Like that makes them not shooting deaths? What? Or it’s not the mass shooters it’s the gangbangers in Chicago. OK, there’s truth to that, but you know what, we’d like even more to stop that, but there’s no way we can make it harder for potential suicides or gangbangers to get guns without making it harder for you to get guns.

    What’s even worse, I don’t think the GOP Establishment, the Charles Kochs and the Mitch McConnells and so on, even care about guns one way or another. It’s just another molehill they can blow up into a big culture war issue to get the rubes to vote for them. The thirty or forty thousand dead are just collateral damage, a small price to pay for their tax cuts.

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  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Dude…the Gun Lobby won. Way back in 2013.
    If 20 innocent young school children can be shot dead, and we do nothing…WE WILL NEVER DO ANYTHING.
    And YES…not taking action is, in fact, taking action.

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  4. Nightcrawler says:

    Alone, we are helpless.

    I agree. The only thing I can do is essentially barricade myself in my house. That’s all any of us can do, unless we’re okay with being randomly gunned down in the street.

    The conservatives want to arm everyone. I have no problem with shooting attackers and killing them. I don’t understand why other people have moral qualms about killing attackers; to me, it’s less disturbing than killing a bug. Bugs aren’t doing anything wrong and don’t deserve to be killed; an attacker is going to kill me or others, and they richly deserve to die for that.

    BS morality isn’t why I don’t want to leave the house. I don’t want to leave the house because I realize that being armed isn’t a panacea:

    * An attacker can get the drop on me and kill/disable me before I even have a chance to pull my weapon.
    * If everyone just starts firing wildly, I could be killed or disabled by a bullet from a so-called “good guy” who can’t shoot straight.
    * I can go to prison for killing an attacker — or for shooting back and killing or wounding one of those so-called “good guys” mentioned in the above point.
    * I could inadvertently kill an innocent. While I don’t care about killing attackers, an innocent is another matter entirely. I couldn’t live with that.

    Yeah, I’d rather just not go anywhere unless I absolutely have to. People who enjoy living in this horrific, dark, kill-or-be-killed society can have it all to themselves.

    4
  5. Nightcrawler says:

    @gVOR08:

    The thirty or forty thousand dead are just collateral damage, a small price to pay for their tax cuts.

    They don’t care about over half a million COVID-19 dead, either. 30k to 40k is absolutely nothing.

    Keep in mind that these “people” don’t care if their own relatives die. They certainly don’t care about nobodies like you or me. They’re sociopaths and incapable of feeling grief.

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  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Keep in mind that these “people” don’t care if their own relatives die. They certainly don’t care about nobodies like you or me. They’re sociopaths and incapable of feeling grief.

    Yeah, that’s just not true. Gun-owning in America seems to be a very confused, sad thing and I think that reflects the fact that a lot of Americans (not only conservative gun-owners) are terrible at dealing with emotions, and they were raised this way, and given no other channels or examples. Caring is a threat, which is why the conservative media exists to explain away everything that doesn’t concern the viewer.

    3
  7. Michael Reynolds says:

    Gun lovers are assholes. They don’t care about dead children, they don’t care that their own children may someday be among the dead, they don’t care that guns are a major element of domestic abuse, they don’t care about suicide by gun, they don’t care about cops shooting up people’s homes, they don’t care that they are the reason we have militarized cops to begin with, they don’t care that businesses spend millions just dealing with the threat of some random shooter. It’s very much in line with their idiot equation of going maskless with freedom. Whatever impinges on them, however slight, they will fight it even if not fighting brought on universal peace. They’re assholes.

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  8. Kathy says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    Back in the late 90s, I used to play laser tag weekly with some friends (afterwards we’d have drinks and dinner). That game shows you it’s way too easy to shoot people on your side, who are clearly identified as such, and how easy it is for you to get shot even when you’re on the lookout for other people trying to shoot you.

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  9. Nightcrawler says:

    @Modulo Myself:

    I disagree. The apocalypse outed all of the sociopaths in this society — and there are millions of them.

    I’ll admit that maybe they weren’t born sociopaths. Maybe they were made into sociopaths, but the end result is the same. They’re also irredeemable, like pedophiles. They can’t be fixed.

    Yes, I am writing off half the country. Pretending that they’re regular people and not sociopaths isn’t going to make it all better. Nothing will.

    5
  10. flat earth luddite says:

    Our current forms of collective action on guns have failed us

    Well, I’d agree, Kingdaddy, except that I haven’t seen any form of collective action on guns in at least the past 50 years.

    Let me know when a collective decision or action is reached. I’m going to guess that it’ll be sometime after the heat death of the Republic, but in any event, long after my ashes are blowing in the wind.

    In the meantime, I’m actively disinterested in the “gun owner good/bad argument,” or the “gunluuvers are krazy” argument, or even the “I need a gun to protect me from *KLANG*” argument. I’m not even going to get into the “weapon/gun” argument. Don’t know, don’t care. None of it matters. The numbers aren’t even a rounding error in the petty cash drawer to the powers that be.

    3
  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    Let’s say there are a million vials of anthrax in private hands. A jar breaks and 100 people die. The anthrax-nut response is, “Wasn’t my vial.” A thousand more vials break, killing 100,000. “Wasn’t my vial.” So a law is proposed to replace breakable anthrax vials with shatter-proof vials, and the anthrax-lover screams that his freedom is being taken from him.

    They are beyond the reach of reason or moral appeal.

    4
  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    hostage to something that rarely happen, the “good guy with a gun” who stops a would-be mass murderer,

    Yep, but what does happen is the “unarmed vice principle of a middle school” who stops a would be mass murderer, or the “unarmed diner customer” who stops a would be mass murderer, or the “unarmed attendees to a political event” who stop a would be mass murderer…

    On that last one, I was sitting in the barber shop when a couple of locals got into the whole expanded magazine debate and one of them said, “It’s stupid! You know how long it takes me to change mags?”

    “Long enough to stop Jared Loughner.” I interjected. (not to mention the absurdity that if it made no difference, why object?)

    They decided to talk about something else.

    2
  13. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: They don’t care about dead children, they don’t care that their own children may someday be among the dead, they don’t care that guns are a major element of domestic abuse, they don’t care about suicide by gun, they don’t care about cops shooting up people’s homes, they don’t care that they are the reason we have militarized cops to begin with, they don’t care that businesses spend millions just dealing with the threat of some random shooter.

    As a gun owner I can say that one out of 7 ain’t bad Michael (sorry, I really don’t care about suicide by gun, or any other manner for the record) but you go right ahead with that big ol’ paint brush. As to

    they don’t care that they are the reason we have militarized cops to begin with,

    I would not be in the least surprised if the reasons had a lot more to do with systemic racism than it did with the *proliferation of guns*, but hey, as Thoreau said, “Simplify simplify simplify.”

    **when was the last time a white person was shot just because a cop thought he had a gun? Happens all the time when a cop thinks a black person does, but I know of time after time when a white person did in fact have a gun and they didn’t get shot by a cop.

    3
  14. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @gVOR08: Why would conservatives care about what liberals are sick of? The liberals are the ones destroying the American way of life (just ask Glenn Beck, among others). The fact of liberals being sick of something probably establishes it as an unaltered benefit to the nation.

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  15. Loviatar says:

    This post.

    &

    After Trump Failed, Georgia Republicans Pass Bill to Make It Easier to Overturn Elections

    &

    United States Less Democratic Than it Used to Be

    =

    We’re a failed state.

    It may take a while for the realization to hit home, but the American experiment has failed.

    3
  16. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: “If 20 innocent WHITE young school children can be shot dead, and we do nothing…WE WILL NEVER DO ANYTHING.

    Fixed that for you. Sadly, I’m amenable to the idea that (possibly even) most Americans don’t care about black/poor/Hispanic children dying. In the neighborhoods they live in, some number of them dying as a result of violence simply can’t be helped, after all. 🙁

    1
  17. Teve says:

    @Nightcrawler:

    since you’ve got about a 1 in 800,000 chance of dying in a spree/mass-shooting event in a given year, I’m going to consider what you said a hysterical overreaction.

    If you want to get groceries delivered, the best justification is so you avoid a car crash. Your odds of dying in a car crash are 100 times higher than a mass shooting.

    4
  18. Scott O says:

    “This is the worldview of thirteen year olds, not serious adults.”

    For many, many years I’ve felt that modern conservatism is just so damn juvenile. See Newtspeak. Exhibit A is Trump.

    Relating to the issue at hand, one of the worst things that “conservatives” have done IMO is to encourage gun ownership. It’s become a way of signaling that you’re a Real American.

    I have indeed passed into a realm of helplessness about the future of our country. Without a change in the way we choose our representatives I don’t see how we can get beyond the current situation.

    2
  19. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Gun lovers are assholes

    Are you making a distinction between gun lovers and gun owners?

    There’s a radicalized group of gun nuts now who believe that the Democrats are stealing their freedoms, and that open carry is owning the libtards and all that shit. Those are horrible people.

    And then there are the people who want a gun. Not 10 guns, not enough ammunition to fight a small war, but a gun. Maybe two or three (one per broad situation — handgun for self-protection, rifle for hunting, and a big ass gun for shooting the shit out of things at the range).

    The latter group, they’re basically fine. Or were until a few years ago — some have been radicalized since then. But some of them are even Democrats, who just want a gun.

    It’s not a great decision — they’re more likely to kill a family member than an intruder — but the numbers that come to regret that decision are low enough that everyone thinks it won’t happen to them. Lots of people make bad decisions. Even bad decisions that they cannot contain all the damage of — drugs, alcohol, learning to play the saxophone, etc. Society functions anyway.

    As the NRA collapses (one hopes), it would be great if some of the conservative Democrat types tried to start an alternative — an organization that is focused on gun safety, sport, and which looks like the NRA from 50 years ago. And if we have to drive a stake through its heart in another 30 years, so be it, but if it gains a foothold, it would give us a chance to get some basic reforms in place. Our mountain Senators could be proud members who kill some crazy proposal supported by a California Senator to show some cred, and then vote to pass waiting periods, magazine restrictions, a limit on how many people you can kill in a certain amount of time…

    We’re never going to be a gun free paradise. But we can be less worse.

    2
  20. Gustopher says:

    @Loviatar:

    We’re a failed state.

    Come on, man, that’s just malarky. We’re not a failed state, we’re a failing state.

    2
  21. Nightcrawler says:

    @Teve:

    That was pre-apocalypse. Things have gotten way worse, and they’re going to continue to deteriorate. As things open back up, mass shootings are going to increase in frequency and body count.

  22. Nightcrawler says:

    @Gustopher:

    We’re never going to be a gun free paradise. But we can be less worse.

    I agree. I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-lunatics having guns, particularly very powerful ones, and treating them like they’re toys, or things to brandish just because someone made them mad.

    it would be great if some of the conservative Democrat types tried to start an alternative — an organization that is focused on gun safety, sport, and which looks like the NRA from 50 years ago.

    That would be great. I wish it would happen, but I’m not holding my breath.

  23. Nightcrawler says:

    @Scott O:

    I have indeed passed into a realm of helplessness about the future of our country. Without a change in the way we choose our representatives I don’t see how we can get beyond the current situation.

    That’s where I’m at. I feel that the only thing I can do is withdraw from society as much as possible, isolate myself as much as possible. I say “as much as possible” because I have a household to support. I have to work, but I can continue to work from home.

    THANK GOD I don’t have a job that requires me to go somewhere. I’d probably careen off a mental cliff. I can’t imagine having to go into a workplace every day in this horrible, violent world.

  24. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    drugs, alcohol, learning to play the saxophone

    Stop spying on me!