Think About It: Collecting grief

The enormity of the tragedy of another school shooting overwhelmed me. I cried when I heard 14 children were shot to death in their elementary school in Uvalde Texas. Tears, shock, and horror melded together in an instant. I was sick to my stomach. Still am.

My first thought put me inside the fear of a 9-year-old girl about to be shot dead. Next, I shifted inside the child who somehow escaped being shot but was present long enough to witness an unimaginable slaughter of her little friends. I heard screaming and calling “mummy, mama, momma …”

Husband and I were at the ocean in our room having lunch and catching up with the news. The announcer had the good sense to advise viewers to have their children leave the room.

Somber news

As the day wore on the number of dead children rose to 18, then 19. The number of dead adults was two teachers. Finally reports came in that the shooter was shot dead by police. First responders walked into the carnage. Those that came later were advised not to go in unless they were absolutely needed.

How curious it seemed to me that they were being protected from the scene. I can only assume those alive and injured had been sent off to the hospital and that all that was left were dead children.

Indeed, we learned later the shooter used an automatic rifle (AR-15) that tore into the little children, leaving some unrecognizable except by the clothes they were wearing.

We should all be made to view the scene as we calculate the damage and analyze the causes that resulted in this horrific event. Would we become evangelicals for the safety of children or protection of everyone’s right to own and operate an automatic rifle at 18-years-old without question.

Dreading the debate

The response from the spectrum of opinions was immediate from “We shouldn’t talk about it until the dead children are laid to rest” to “The second amendment should be repealed.”

I do not want to hear the word gamesmanship any more than the debaters want to hear each other. Nothing happened legislatively following the 2012 elementary school Sandy Hook shooting, the worst school shooting in which twenty-six children and adults were shot by a 20-year-old with an AR-15 rifle before he shot himself. That is, unless you count state legislative action the loosened gun control.

I am confounded by the National Rifle Association (NRA) who held their annual meeting about 300 miles from Uvalde three days later. Former President Trump, Texas Senator Ted Cruz and NRA head Wayne LaPierre said the names of the children and expressed sorrow. Then went on with the simple messages that “The only defense to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” and deranged people are killers, not guns.

As if it were that simple … or that macho … or that inane.

Does it make sense that we must allow all bad guys to get guns for good guys to have gun rights? Is the massacre of little children in schools the acceptable collateral damage and/or unintended consequence of guns for all at 18?

Of course not, but some would have us believe the risk of the government coming to take our guns is far greater that a deranged killer walking into any school armed with the intention to kill. I do know there warrants for arrest which may involve warrants to enter homes to get bad guys. Other than those, I have not heard of any mass collection of peoples’ guns by the government.

Whereas twenty-seven school shootings and over 200 mass shootings — defined as shootings in which four or more people were injured or killed not counting the shooter — occurred in America the first five months of this year.

All of which is why I cannot listen to anyone who cheers the simple and inane as reasons to block children from having a predictable environment free from deranged shooters.

I do not know why they cheer instead of weep.

Timely and time for intervention

Finally, I try to look inside the deranged shooter, an impossible task for something so incomprehensible. No doubt, some shooters are psychopaths, the most difficult to detect until the deed given their intelligent cunning and charm. Early warnings are the child who enjoys torturing the family cat.

But what we hear of this shooter, like others, is an unstable home life that does not provide the refuge and esteem children need when hurt at school. The shooters are boys who most often were bullied as young children. The Uvalde shooter’s speech impediment and lisp made him the object of taunts when he was very young. He did not easily make friends but had one or two. When his best friend moved away, the shooter began wearing all black. His mother was a drug addict. He moved in with his grandmother, whom he shot before he went to the school.

We know so little, too little except to wonder if there was a time when someone could have intervened. Was there ever a teacher who took a special interest in him? Was there anyone?

We cannot make judgements. We can ask questions. We can pressure the hearts of those who do not want their children, any children fearful of school whether from bullying or shooters to look at the complexity of this severe problem instead of simple solutions or slogans.

I cannot help but believe the pandemic, isolation and features of social media absorption were factors. We know it was the case of the “Buffalo shooter.” Human touch, caring, supporting, and belonging are essential to our view of the world and our place in it. We do better if we are part of a group. We are less likely to become a deranged shooter.

Most of us want a non-violent environment in which children can be raised to be more inspired than paranoid. How do we do that? Can it be reason enough to get beyond our self-centered selves and come together for them?

Bertha Cooper, a featured columnist in the Sequim Gazette, spent her career years in health care administration, program development and consultation and it the author of the award-winning “Women, We’re Only Old Once.” Cooper and her husband have lived in Sequim more than 20 years. Reach her at