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May 26, 2018 | by  | in News Opinion |
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Surprise Surprise, Another US School Massacre

CW: Discussion of violence
A few weeks ago, I wrote an article in Salient in relation to the #neveragain movement sweeping the United States, after a tragic high school massacre claimed the lives of 17 children. I wrote then about how I remain sceptical that any changes would be made to gun laws in the States, and took a wild guess that children would continue to be killed — not by the boredom of maths — but by their fellow students. Surprise surprise, it happened again.

On 18 May, 17 year old high school student Dimitrios Pagourtzis walked into his school wearing a black trenchcoat and t-shirt with “born to kill” emblazoned on it. He was armed with both a shotgun and .38 revolver which he used to deadly effect, opening fire on students, injuring 10 and eventually killing 10 others.

According to the Huffington Post, the first to be executed was a girl who had repeatedly spurned Pagourtzis’ advances. He entered her art classroom in the morning and fired a shotgun at her. After this, so this sad tale goes, he began taunting various students with the threat of them being next. In the next 30-odd minutes he had killed a further nine students, and seriously injured a police officer.

This was a methodical and calculated massacre. Some of the survivors allege he made a point of letting those he “liked” live so they could “tell his story” — a rather chilling thing to hear when your classmates are lying dead and/or dying around you.

As with most US high school shootings — of which there have been 22 this year alone — it appears in this case the guns were legally owned by a parent, and had been spirited away by the son as he set about his murderous deed. This presents a problem for authorities in their efforts to stop children getting their hands on their parent’s guns — never mind the ones readily available to children themselves — as any move to clamp down on guns inevitably draws the same shrill response from the pro-gun lobby. Take blonde darling of the far-right, Tomi Lahren — a particularly vitriolic gob on a stick. Lahren conducted an Instagram live stream on Tuesday 24 May blasting those calling for tighter gun control as wanting to leave “perfectly sane Americans defenseless” — an interesting position to take, as last time I checked, no one was calling for the elimination of firearms.

Lahren would appear to represent all that is wrong with the American gun lobby, viewing any attempt to simply curtail the serial arming of American society as a covert attempt by “the loony left” and “big government” to strip them of their rights. Depending on the degree of paranoia experienced by these gun nuts they also seem to variously believe that it is a government plot to enslave them.

Once again, the knee-jerk response to the Santa Fe attack from people like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is arguably even more frightening than the prospect of further massacres, wherein Patrick resurrected Trump’s previous, ill-conceived remarks about arming teachers. As I said in my previous piece on #neveragain, this is the epitome of a stupid idea. It will in no way, shape or form, bring any benefits in terms of student safety, and could very well endanger them more. The Chief of the Houston Police Department summed up my feelings on the matter quite nicely in a Facebook post stating: “I know some have strong feelings about gun rights but I want you to know I’ve hit rock bottom and I am not interested in your views as it pertains to this issue. Please do not post anything about guns aren’t the problem and there’s little we can do.”

It would seem to me that guns and the laws — or rather the lack thereof — that surround them are most certainly the problem. On top of this, the marginalized issue of mental health seems to be one of the utmost relevance as well. After all, I have yet to hear anyone make the argument that Pagoutzis or Nikolas Cruz — the Florida shooter — were entirely compos mentis and had all cylinders firing. Or at least, I struggle to imagine these individuals as entirely sane. But what do I know? I’m just a hack.

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