The tears welling up in my eyes multiple times during the day only modestly hint at what I’ve felt inside over the past two days. Yesterday, the tears appeared when I dropped my kids off at school in the morning, again with every news story about grieving Texas parents throughout the day, and – not for the last time – when I was lucky enough to be able to hug my kids again after school. As one of the leaders of Allison+Partners’ employee advocacy group Allison+Family, those tears are blurring my vision now as I’m typing and will probably punctuate my day between meetings and projects.
Similarly impacted, one colleague suggested yesterday that this was PTSD, latent from prior school shootings and triggered by the latest one. Another colleague shared a Huffington Post article titled “What to Do If You Feel Traumatized by The Latest Mass Shooting,” updated on May 24, 2022, which ends with this note:
“This article was originally published in response to the Las Vegas shooting in October 2017, and it was updated after the Sutherland Springs, Texas, shooting in November 2017. And after Parkland, Florida, in February 2018. And after Santa Fe, Texas, in May 2018. And after Annapolis, Maryland, in June 2018. And after Pittsburgh in October 2018. And after Thousand Oaks, California, in November 2018. And after Virginia Beach in May 2019. And after El Paso, Texas in August 2019. And after Dayton, Ohio, in August 2019. And after Atlanta in March 2021. And after Boulder, Colorado, in March 2021. And after Brooklyn, New York in April 2022. And after Buffalo, New York in May 2022. And after Uvalde, Texas in May 2022.”
In under 5 years, shootings in those 15 cities spanned every part of the United States – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As the map above shows, the Center for Homeland Defense and Security has actually logged hundreds of school shootings since the infamous 1999 Columbine High School shooting, which should have shaken American legislators to take immediate action. Instead, over the subsequent 23 years, there have been school shootings in every U.S. state except one.
Despite parents’ tears, screams, and even lawsuits, the Columbine tragedy and its successors ultimately changed very little. The pace of mass attacks has increased. What once might have been “someone else’s” problem has gone national, touching everyone in some way. There were two police vehicles stationed at my daughter’s school this morning. The Buffalo attack destroyed the lives of good people in my hometown, and other mass shootings have happened within driving distance.
I have come to realize that my tears come from both empathy and a sense of individual helplessness. Our country is in crisis: The gun lobby has successfully militarized a growing segment of our adult population, and emboldened teenagers to seek out rifles as birthday gifts. “Bad guys with guns” have only become badder, more numerous, and more bold, equipping themselves with body cameras and body armor to guarantee their deathstreams won’t be stopped by the first “good guys with guns” who see them.
Based on recent history, I’m no longer sure whether donating to gun control advocacy groups or relief organizations will solve the problem. Countless dollars have already been spent trying to convince American legislators to do the right thing: Dramatically restrict access to weapons and ammunition, then provide mental health services for those whose lives revolve around guns and threatening their neighbors. We know or should in any rational reality know that these actions are necessary; it is now our government’s responsibility and obligation to take them.
As Peter Frampton said two days ago, “26 years ago, a gunman entered Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, killing 16 kids and a teacher. The UK govt responded by enacting tight gun control legislation. In the 9,400+ days since, there have been a total of 0 school shootings in the UK.”
Imagine America spending the next 25 years with 0 school shootings – the sort of peace most countries enjoyed for the last 25 years. That would mean knowing that we’ll see our children again at the end of each day, and after their awards ceremonies. It would mean not worrying that they might face a truly terrifying moment that we cannot protect them from without completely removing them from schools.
It would mean fewer tears in our eyes and fears in our hearts, inhibiting us from the work we should be doing and the progress we should be making as a society. I know a lot of the parents in Allison+Family, including myself, would sleep better at night knowing our kids were safe.
Every leader and legislator in this country needs to be asked two questions – and held accountable for their answers: Will you stand up now to actually stop this violence? And if not, why?
Jeremy Horwitz is Allison+Partners' head of content for the Technology group, drawing upon three decades of prior experience as a journalist and entrepreneur to provide brand positioning, media relations, and content development counsel. Specializing in communications for the consumer electronics, semiconductor, gaming, and B2B sectors, he also has a deep background in diverse areas ranging from intellectual property law to popular entertainment, international dining, and luxury hospitality.