Lessons From The Uvalde School Shooting: Will We Learn This Time?
Here we are yet again: Another mass shooting, another group of kids mowed down in their classroom, another set of grieving parents suddenly forced to refer to their children in the past tense. A new batch of photographs running across the television screen, featuring formerly vibrant faces forced to leave this world way too soon. Or as we call it here in America: just another Tuesday. I’m reminded of a cartoon caption I encountered several years ago. It read: “There’s absolutely nothing that can be done (says the only nation on earth where this keeps happening).”
This time around, there’s insult on top of injury, as we’re learning about the incompetent response to this shooting. Police were on the scene literally right as this massacre was first beginning, since the shooter, in his ineptitude, decided to crash his car into a ditch and then got out shooting before he ever reached the school. The school resource officer, who wasn’t on site, reportedly drove right past the culprit – a missed chance to end the incident right then and there, before a single child had died.
Deadly delays in offering help
Even more egregious is the fact that all these officers, who arrived at the school right as this massacre was beginning, stood outside the door for an hour and 20 minutes while children suffered and bled inside their classroom. A lot has been said about this lapse in judgment, and the danger it posed to the children still alive inside, trapped in a room with a madman, rubbing themselves with the blood of deceased friends to pass as one of the dead. But not enough emphasis is being put on the delay in medical care to those who had already been shot.
To understand how catastrophic this delay might have been, I want to tell you a tale about an artificial blip in gun violence statistics. Beginning around 1990, we started to see a regular decline in gun homicides; one that lasted nearly two decades (it has since shot back up, pun intended). Many theories were put forth to try and explain this trend, but one crucial factor was something most people would overlook: better emergency care. Actual shootings didn’t decline all that much, but doctors got much better at treating gunshot wounds, and the time it took to get victims to the ER also came down. This meant that people who previously would have been counted among gun homicide victims were now surviving their wounds. Medical care for gunshot injuries got so much better that it led to an artificial dip in gun homicide statistics. Double or even triple the number of people were now surviving wounds that previously would have been fatal.
This makes the negligence in this tragedy especially sickening. To a gunshot victim, for whom life versus death can be measured in mere minutes, an hour and 20 minutes might as well be eternity. It’s the difference between a funeral procession and a full recovery.
Had police done what they were supposed to do, it’s all but certain more kids would have survived. Those who took a direct head shot or ballet to the heart couldn’t have been saved, but others with less immediately fatal wounds could have. Instead of having 19 dead, the number of children lost might have been 15 or 13. We won’t get a fuller understanding of the true cost of this delay until autopsy reports are released detailing each child’s injuries (assuming these are released), but what limited information we have now makes me sick to my stomach.
We know that Amarie Jo Garza, now deceased, was one of the kids who called 911 from her cell phone to report the shooting. We also have an audio recording sent over a dispatch channel of a child crying “I got shot.” Is this Amerie Jo? Or another little girl? If so, did she survive? Only those who might recognize Amarie Jo’s voice know the answer to this question at this point. We also know that one child suffered a single gunshot wound to the lower back and bled out before help arrived.
Whether these are 3 separate kids or all the same one, we know based on these isolated facts that at least 1 child, and possibly three, would have been saved by a quicker response. We also know that kids had to cover the mouth of a friend with a leg would t keep her from screaming. We know that local medical personnel put out a call for blood while treating victims – a good indication that blood loss was a chief concern. We also know that even after this hour and a half delay, some children did survive: 2 young victims, ages 9 and 10, remain hospitalized in serious and stable condition.
in the Pulse Night Club shooting, there were several people who bled out from leg wounds simply because help didn’t arrive in time. And if memory serves me correct, we were dealing with response times of 30 to 40 minutes in that case. Delays also cost lives at Columbine. It wouldn’t shock me if a 3rd or more of these kids died from lack of a rapid response.
The Curious Case of the Unspent Bullets
The shooter arrived on the scene with more than 1000 rounds of ammo, which could be a series of inquires in and off itself. When police killed him 78 minutes later, he still had, according to police, a 173 live rounds on him inside the school. So obviously, the children in those classes were still in danger. This has been discussed extensively. But as someone who’s studied mass shootings, I have another question: What made him stop?
It’s almost certain he would have heard some of the children stirring. Simple boredom might also have let him to wonder the two interconnected classrooms checking on his would-be victims. This makes me wonder if he had a change of heart after the initial carnage. Maybe murdering school children isn’t as rewarding in the concrete as it seems in the abstract. Maybe his rage subsided. Mass shootings tend to share a lot in common with suicides, even if someone has been planning or idealizing something in advance, following through with action can be mood and circumstance dependent. These tragedies are a lot like sparks shot from a fire. Conditions have to be just right to send the embers flying. This is one of the reasons multi-faceted approaches to stoping them are so crucial. Pluck at even just one of these threads (mood, mental health, isolation, circumstance, access to fire arms, social influences, and so forth), and might keep this simmering rage from actually boiling over.
For whatever reason, after his initial fury, Ramos decided to stop shooting at kids. We can all be grateful that he did, or the death toll would be even worse. But since most mass shooters go in with a goal of inflicting maximum carnage, it raises the specter of another unsettling angle to this catastrophe: perhaps this isn’t what Ramos truly wanted either.
Is this time different?
I’ve watched parents of the victims vow that this time will be different, that their child will not have died in vain. But is it? I want to share their optimism, but I’ve been in this business long enough to know better.
Governor Greg Abbot’s press conference in response to this massacre was appalling. It was so obviously politically staged–I think I heard the words “mental health” 5 or 6 dozen times without any discussion of guns. Certainly no mention of 18-year-olds with assault rifles and 1,000+ rounds of ammunition spread across 10 magazines, all purchased legally within the span of a couple weeks.
Abbot happens to be a grade-A moron and one of the biggest POS’s Texas has ever produced, and that’s saying something. He’s spent his time in office doing all he can to increase murder rates in the state while passing bills that make you a criminal if you happen to have a transgender child. Instead of promoting murder or persecuting the 0.5-0.8 percent of children born with a sex-related biological birth defect, he should instead do something that actually helps his constituents.
On a national level, things aren’t looking any better. We’ve seen a steady march in the wrong direction–in 2011, only Vermont allowed its citizens to tote their guns around without a permit. By March 2022, 25 states had passed such legislation. The fact that gun violence has surged to surpass auto deaths to become our nation’s biggest threat to children is no accident. It’s a direct result of this expanding gun lobby legislation.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile, in addition to overturning Roe v. Wade, has signaled its intention to strip states of the right to regulate guns – essentially pulling the rug out from under what meager gun legislation we still have left. (It’s funny how these Supreme Hypocrites can issue rulings that cite the importance of “state rights” in one circumstance, and then turn around and strip states of their rights when it comes to another conservative pet issue on their agenda.)
The NRA, forever tone deaf to any sense of morality, held its convention just a few days after this massacre. You know, the same NRA that cozies up with Russian operatives, and whose executives have been caught misusing the organization’s funds to take fancy trips or go on shopping sprees spending several hundred thousand dollars on clothes while our children bled in the streets.
The gun lobby, whom we refer to more accurately as the murder lobby, has a solution: More guns. “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” I doubt the NRA itself actually believes such nonsense, but unfortunately, many of their constituents do.
The data on this issue is as definitive as the laws of gravity, and it all points in one direction:
More guns = more gun violence
Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you more likely to die a violent death
If you own a gun, it’s approximately 900-times more likely that gun will be used for tragic purposes as opposed to legitimate self-defense.
Guns do not stop mass shootings. Sadly, we’ve amassed an extensive history in this area, and it shows that unarmed people are more successful in stopping attacks than those with a gun.
(See our guns & firearms information for full facts and details on these issues.)
Getting Something Done
I didn’t personally know these children, but I’ve spent the last week crying as though I did. I can’t help but to think of the classrooms of kids I’ve had over the years, and I see each of them in the faces on the TV. I know I’m not alone, but do other truly care enough?
After Sandy Hook, after Parkland, and now after Robb Elementary, this issue suddenly became personal for so many parents. It’s going to take that kind of personalization of these atrocities, that type of restructuring of priorities to achieve meaningful change. The rest of us need to stop looking at these things from a distance and react just as these parents have, as if it was your child, your niece, or your grandson shot to death in their classroom. The rest of us need to act as though our own children’s lives are hanging in the balance, because to a large extent they are. Tomorrow it could be your child shot to death at school, or they could be one of the other 4400 kids killed one at a time by gun violence… the equivalent of nearly two 911s each and every year.
We try to avoid politics as much as possible, and my personal opinion of politicians is that most are rather incompetent buffoons. If I had a magic wand, I’d abolish political parties all together,, since they create divisions and wind up corrupting the process. But when it comes to this issue, there is a clear right and wrong, and sadly, the Republican party has branded itself the party of death, aligning itself with the murder lobby to insure the slaughter of innocents continues.
If we want any real chance of action, the majority of Americans who believe in commonsense gun reform, need to make sure a dozen or two of those republicans are voted out of office. lAnd id you are a moderate Republican who doesn’t like seeing murdered children (unlike some of our elected officials), you need to get on the phone with your representatives and make it clear that inaction on this issue carries a price. Rational Republicans need to make their voice as loud as that of the murder lobby. The sad thing is that rational Americans outnumber the gun fanatics outnumber 4 to 1, but because the gun fanatics are more vocal and involved, they are the ones setting the agenda.
I really hope this time is different. I hope there are enough compassionate Americans out there to prove my skepticism wrong. But I must end this post realistically with a statement I desperately hope doesn’t come true. Until next time …
A tribute to those we failed.
Thoughts provided by Josie Keiths.