Stephen Henderson on mass shooting at elementary school in Texas

We can make mass shootings much less frequent if we choose the right policy levers, says Stephen Henderson.

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

How long will it be before the next time somebody takes a gun, a high powered, fast-shooting rifle and walks into a school or a church or a grocery store and kills a lot of people in a flash? Is it days? Is it weeks? Is it months? We know that the answer can’t be much longer than that. Not in this country. It hasn’t been for a really long time. We keep doing this over and over and over again.

And so here we are today. Trying to make sense. Trying to figure out what we’re supposed to do in response to the deaths of 19 children and two teachers in a Texas elementary school.

Are you surprised? Seriously? Are you shocked? I understand the other range of emotions that I think we’re all feeling right now — the anger, the frustration. But you can’t really say that you’re surprised that this happened, not if you’ve been paying attention. There’s 400 million guns in this country. That’s more guns than people. And every couple of weeks, every couple of months, somebody takes one of those guns, or a couple of them, and does something horrific.


Listen: Stephen Henderson discusses the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School.

 


I’m done trying to express enough emotion to try to inspire change here. I don’t know what would work. How many dead kids do we have to know about? How many dead grocery shoppers do we have to learn about? How many times do we have to hear about the ease with which somebody gets their hands on a weapon that can slice children into tiny bits in a matter of seconds (and) wonder about what’s going on with that person, why they did it?

There isn’t a point beyond which we’re willing to say enough. There doesn’t seem to be enough of an impetus to action inspired by horror. And, so, I think we have to maybe start talking in just very stark and logical terms about all of this. What are the practical things that can be done?

I don’t think we can solve this problem entirely because it is an American problem. It is a reflection of not just who we are right now, the way we relate to each other, the way we think of guns. It’s a reflection of who we have always been in this country. This is a violent country. By many measures, the most violent nation to ever exist on the planet, born of the plundering of a native nation, built on the toil of people stolen from another continent and defended over and over and over again through violence — expanded through violence. So, I don’t think we can ever imagine that that history and the present don’t create these kinds of incidents. But we can make them rarer. We can make it harder. We can make a lot of things make way more sense than they already do. 

“The image that sticks most in my mind, from yesterday, is the one of the line of parents outside the school where this happened, walking in to give DNA samples so they could match them with the remains of slaughtered children. That’s how much damage, that’s how much absolute violence was done inside the school. So, I don’t know, what are we supposed to do?” — Stephen Henderson

We’re here today to talk about carnage, absolute carnage. The image that sticks most in my mind, from yesterday, is the one of the line of parents outside the school where this happened, walking in to give DNA samples so they could match them with the remains of slaughtered children. That’s how much damage, that’s how much absolute violence was done inside the school. So, I don’t know, what are we supposed to do? How do we get to a better place? How do we change the narrative here? On my list, our background checks, universal background checks. The support for that in this country is near universal, and, yet, we can’t get Congress to enforce it, to adopt it, to say this is how we’re going to live in this country.

Also on my list is weapons regulation. Why don’t we regulate hand grenades if you can just walk to the corner store and buy an AR-15, which does almost the same amount of damage in almost the same amount of time. We need to have a practical conversation about what’s a reasonable gun for somebody to be able to buy and possess. Is that any gun we can invent? That doesn’t make sense to me. I don’t think that’s what the Constitution was talking about. Why can’t we have a conversation about what’s reasonable?

I also think we need to talk about the connection between legal gun sales and illegal use. Who’s responsible for that? Who should be responsible for it? I don’t think the answer is nobody. It’s not just the person doing it. Why can’t we discuss how to discourage sales of these kinds of weapons to people who intend to use them for, well, the only purpose that they are made for: killing a lot of people.

And last on my list, and far from least, is young men. Ninety-nine percent of these crimes are committed by young men in our country. And here’s another fact: The overwhelming majority of those young men are white young men. Why aren’t we talking about white culture in this country? The culture that is producing the people who do these things. In this case, in Texas, it was a Latino young man. But he’s in the minority. The distinct minority here. Just a few weeks ago, we were talking about Buffalo, where a young white man drove hundreds of miles into a city to go kill African-Americans. Flip the demographics here. If this were happening, and it were African American young men doing it all the time, how much would we be talking about Black culture? How much would we be talking about black responsibility? How much will we be talking about black families? And how they raise their children? Seems to me, we have a conversation to be had about white America. How is it producing these killers?

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  • Detroit Today

    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.