A little before 8 a.m. last Tuesday, a 15-year-old boy strode into his high school in rural Kentucky and, according to authorities, started shooting his classmates. Two children, both 15, were killed, and more than a dozen others injured.
What prompted this rampage is not known and may never be satisfactorily answered. How the accused shooter undertook the deadly assault is another matter and one that is tragically easier to answer. The gun used to kill Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope apparently came -- as is the case in most school shootings -- from the alleged shooter’s home.
That once again underscores the irrationality of not having laws that try to keep guns out of children’s hands by requiring responsible and safe storage.
Classes have resumed at Marshall County High School, funeral services for the two murdered students were held, and the 15-year-old being held on murder and assault charges is likely to be charged as an adult in a scenario that has sadly become all too familiar. Indeed, so frequent are school shootings (the Kentucky attack was one of at least 11 shootings so far this year on a school property) that schools have adjusted to the terrible new normal. Active-shooter drills have become a classroom routine, and buildings have been fortified with bulletproof entrances and door-jamming devices. Bulletproof backpack inserts are even being marketed to worried parents.
But even though studies show that most perpetrators of school shootings obtained their firearms from home (in the Kentucky case, reportedly from a closet), little to nothing has been done to address this problem. There are no laws at the federal level making it a crime to leave a firearm accessible to a child. Just 14 states and Washington, D.C., have laws that make adults criminally liable for negligently storing firearms when a child gains access. Massachusetts is the only state that generally requires all firearms be safely stored in a locked container or with a trigger lock when the owner is not carrying the gun.
Safe storage is not only important in helping to prevent intentional shootings but also key in cutting down on teen and other suicides as well as accidental shootings. How many times do we need to hear about children finding a gun and killing themselves or another child before we insist that gun owners be required to responsibly secure their firearms or face legal consequences when lives are lost? How many more school shootings need to occur before steps are taken to try to keep guns out of troubled young hands? What is it going to take to stop buying the fictions being peddled by the national gun lobby?
There is no question that more must be done to deal with the complex issues that contribute to violence and that there are no simple solutions. But making sure children can’t get their hands on guns should not be a hard call.