Shootings leave numerous victims
Ava Olsen lives in Townsville, S.C., a small community of some 3,913 people. On Sept. 28, 2016, a 14-year-old boy shot up her elementary school, wounding a child and teacher and killing Ava’s best friend, 6-year-old Jacob Hall. According to John Woodrow Cox, in his illuminating book “Children Under Fire,” Ava was so traumatized by Jacob’s death that she could no longer go to school. “Triggered by loud noises, she became prone to extreme tantrums and acts of impulsivity, lashing out at her parents and blaming herself for his death; a fretful, unbiddable and at times inconsolable version of her former self.”
One can only imagine how many other Ava’s have suffered and are suffering similar psychological wounds and childish idiosyncrasies from having experienced the loss of a friend or relative to gunfire. And one can only wonder what’s the “psychic price paid by kids who live in the long, dark shadows of the aftermath of such violence.” And one can only shudder at the thought that the thousands of Ava’s whose “lives and life chances have been shaped by premature brushes with mortality” will carry their crosses (traumas) to their graves.
When it comes to children and gun violence, the human cost that can be counted is mind-boggling. On average, according to Cox, one child is shot every hour. Over the past decade 30,000 children and teenagers have been killed by gunfire. To put this horrible statistic in perspective, “death by gun” has replaced cancer as the second leading cause of death among the aforementioned age group. One can only imagine the human cost (e.g. the. Ava’s) that cannot be counted.
What is most disheartening, to me at least, is that most of these deaths and the resultant collateral damage might have been avoided. All our federal and state governments had to do was implement the following gun policies of our northern neighbor Canada.
¯ All gun owners must be licensed, which includes passing a series of firearm safety tests. Here, you don’t need a license to own a gun in most states.
¯ Canada’s 28-day background checks consider criminal, mental, addiction and domestic violence records. If an applicant was treated for a mental illness or had a history of behavior associated with violence or threatened or attempted violence within five years-no guns. Beat up the old lady or old man-no gun. Canada’s extremely thorough vetting process guarantees that as much as is possible, firearms fall into the right hands.
¯ Third party character references for each gun license applicant are required. Based on the Boulder assassin’s brother’s comments, he wouldn’t have been able to purchase his weapon of death-in Canada.
¯ In Canada, restricted or prohibited firearms can’t be carried either concealed or openly. Since most concealed and open carrying involves handguns, and all handguns are either restricted or prohibited, this policy effectively outlaws most concealed carrying by most people (exception-gun necessary for one’s profession or occupation). If this law were in effect in Boulder, the killer would have been arrested as soon as he left his house.
¯ Canada prohibits most handguns that either have a short barrel or are 32 or 45 calibers, along with fully automatic weapons and military rifles like the AK-47. Only five bullet clips are allowed. Since in the U.S. fully automatic weapons with much larger clips are legal, they’re there for the taking by the homicidal lunatic fringe.
In the wake of the recent mass shootings in Maryland, Colorado, Tennessee and Indiana, the public was predictably outraged, politicians predictably mouthed their usual platitudes and pledged gun reform, and the media predictably provided its usual 48-hours of coverage and “expert” commentary.
Meanwhile, Ava Olsen, as witnessed by Cox, went ballistic because her mother asked her not to stand on the couch. For the next half-hour he saw her “spit water at both parents, say she’s a ‘nobody,’ swear, head-butt her Mom, tell her daddy she hated him and scream at the top of her lungs ‘You don’t understand.’ “
How right she was. We don’t understand. How many more children must innocently die before we do?
Noah Pozner and his twin sister celebrated their sixth birthday on Nov. 20. On a mid-December day to follow, they walked hand in hand into Sandy Hook Elementary School. Only Noah’s sister walked out. One can only wonder how she’s doing today and hope for the best.
Ray Lenarcic is a 1965 State University of New York at Fredonia graduate and is a resident of Herkimer.