Stephen Henderson on Oxford School Shooting: We’re Still Not Having the Right Conversations

When a tragedy like what happened at Oxford High School happens, we don’t have the conversation we’re supposed to have. And until we do, this is what we’re going to live with.

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The following is an essay from WDET Detroit Today host Stephen Henderson:

We are still learning lots of details about what happened on Tuesday at a high school in Oxford, here in Southeast Michigan. But there are some things we know. A 15-year-old got his hands on a gun, came into the school and shot as many people as he could. He killed three students in that school, and a fourth teen died this morning. Imagine what those families are going through right now.

It’s the Tuesday after Thanksgiving when this happens, a time when all of us are really in great moods, I think, about the holiday that happened, about the holiday that is coming, about the holiday season. 


Listen: Stephen Henderson reflects on Tuesday’s school shooting in Oxford.


And now it’s about grief. Unimaginable wasteful loss. Of course, this is not the first time this has happened, not in Michigan, not in the United States. We’ve become used to this. Literally, the news cycle is just about waiting for the next instance of someone who shoots people in a school.

We don’t know about the motive here. We don’t know about the circumstances that led to this. We’re going to learn those things over the next few days. And certainly, for a long time, I think, we will be unpacking what happened — peeling back the layers of how something like this happens.

But I think there are some questions that we can already be asking ourselves that could lead us to a better place, to a more rational and sane world where going to school is not indulging terror, is not clouded by the sense that you could be killed for no reason. 

“I’m just reminded over and over — I see the pictures of these three dead kids — that there’s no excuse for this. We’re not doing enough. We’re not doing the right things. We’re not having the right conversations.” –Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today

We know for instance, that this 15-year-old got his hands on a gun that his father bought on Black Friday, just a few days ago. How does that happen? What’s going on in that household that this child could even get access to weapon like that? That’s one of the questions we ought to be asking. 

And we ought to be asking about responsibility. In the wake of all of this, is the parent who bought this gun liable in some way? Should he be?

When asked these questions too often, in places like Lansing and Washington, we don’t have the conversation we’re supposed to have. We don’t get to the crux of the issue. That’s because there are powerful lobbies that clouded our intense feelings, individual feelings about rights that make it difficult to come up with solutions, change. But again, I’m just reminded over and over — I see the pictures of these three dead kids — that there’s no excuse for this. We’re not doing enough. We’re not doing the right things. We’re not having the right conversations. 

“Can’t we figure a way to make sure that families don’t experience this as often as they do?” – Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today

And until we do, this is what we’re going to live with. Happy Thanksgiving. Merry Christmas. Your kid is dead. Is that who we want to be? We can do better.

In the next few days, we’re going to talk more about this as we learn more about what happened, about the specifics of all of this. And we’ll hear from you. I really want to have a conversation with you, our listeners about what you’re willing to do. What are you willing to consider? What should we be thinking about to make sure that things like this certainly don’t happen as much as they do?

Maybe it’s impossible to eliminate something like this in a country that worships guns the way we do. There are more guns than people in the United States. But it happens so frequently. Can’t we figure a way to do that differently? Can’t we figure a way to make sure that families don’t experience this as often as they do? 

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Authors

  • Stephen Henderson is host of Detroit Today and a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. He is Executive Editor of BridgeDetroit and host of American Black Journal on Detroit Public Television.

  • Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.