What Did We Learn From The Michigan Shooting?
I was going to leave the Michigan shooting behind, but an email from our friend Steve Klitzman contained a link to another comment about the Oxford tragedy which needs to be mentioned and deserves a reply. It’s a rant about the mother of the shooter written by Dick Polman, who teaches journalism at the University of Pennsylvania and spices up his blog with political commentary from a liberal slant.
The column is entitled, “The parents from hell: America’s decline in a nutshell.” Polman never bothers to explain exactly how or why America is in a state of decline, his conviction in this respect is based on a nutty blog that the shooter’s mother posted in 2016. The blog was discovered within hours after the massacre at Oxford High School took place and has since become Exhibit #1 to explain how and why an adolescent gets his hands on a Sig-Sauer pistol and kills four students at his school.
School shootings are the most horrendous and frankly, scary events. After all, schools are supposed to be (and usually are) safe havens even in the most violence-prone neighborhoods. To put it bluntly, most communities which suffer a school shooting are never the same again. In Newtown, they had to tear down the Sandy Hook Elementary School because town residents were traumatized just by driving past the facility after the 2012 massacre took place.
The other problem with school shootings is that even when a youngster is identified as having behavioral or mental problems which require individual attention by parents, professional care-givers and school staff, nobody never imagines that the issues are so dangerous and so immediate that a psychological and then physical explosion is about to take place.
The parents of the Michigan shooter had a conference with teachers and school personnel just several hours before their son began his rampage which left four students dead. Did anyone at that meeting inquire as to whether the kid had access to a gun? The official statement from the school says, “The student’s parents never advised the school district that he had direct access to a firearm or that they had recently purchased a firearm for him.”
Did any school staff who attended that meeting bother to ask? No. They did not.
It seems to me that this would be a much more important question to ask than whether a goofy blog written by the shooter’s mother in 2016 should be taken not only to explain why the kid did what he did, but also to support the idea that America is in a state of ‘decline.’
Adam Lanza’s mother dragged him from one shrink to another in the years prior to his invasion of the Sandy Hook school. James Holmes, who killed 12 and wounded 70 at the Aurora movie theater in 2012 was seeing a shrink at the time of this massacre event. The kid who killed 33 victims at Virginia Tech in 2007, had recently been discharged from a mental health nearby the school.
So here were three young men who together murdered 70 people in three school shootings, and at no time was the issue of access to guns raised by the mental health professionals who saw them, talked to them, and sent them on their way. And in all three situations, the shooters had been planning their rampages for months in advance — months when they were being treated for emotional distress.
Let me make one thing very, very clear. I am not (read: not) in any way promoting any idea that the professionals who saw these obviously disturbed young men didn’t do their jobs. Mental health isn’t like diagnosing the flu or Covid-19. It’s a terribly complex, multi-layered issue which in many instances we can barely figure out why it occurs or how serious a problem it has become.
On the other hand, how difficult is it to ask any patient or the parents of a patient whether the individual whose behavior is concerning has access to a gun? You don’t need to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out, okay?
Somehow, don’t ask me how, but when the issue of gun access should be staring professional caregivers and educators in the face, a curious silence emerges, and the presence or absence of a gun is left unsaid.
So, the parents of the Michigan shooter were dopes. So, the parents of the Michigan shooter loved Donald Trump. So, the parents of the Michigan shooter didn’t believe they needed to lock their guns up. So what?
If influential people like Dick Polman would focus on the real lesson which needs to be learned from the Michigan massacre and ignore the prurient content of some stupid blog, maybe we might begin to figure out how to keep our schools as safe havens and, for that matter, make the whole society safe as well.
It’s called a gun, Professor Polman, a gun.