May 2018 Editorial Winner

101
Dorothy Ballard, The Miami News-Record

When reading the number 101 I tend to hear it in my head as “oneoh- one” because it had become so strongly linked with every high school and college introductory course I have taken in my lifetime.
In a fair number of American educational institutions, 101 represents a meaningful starting place. It is where students gain the essentials for a core course of study – English 101, Chemistry 101, Welding 101 and so on.
A beginning, that is what 101 once meant to me. So it has been jarring when scrolling through my social media feeds to read a variation of the same basic news report – the tragic school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, on May 18, marked the 101 U.S. mass shooting in 2018.
101.
One hundred and one separate incidents of four or more persons being shot or killed in the U.S., not including the shooter, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
I cannot imagine that being a beginning anyone wants. This 101 is a terrifying prospect as it marks what is rapidly becoming a bloody and senseless American norm.
I’m not here to debate the full complexities of domestic gun violence, gun control or gun rights. I am compelled, however, as both a mother and person valuing their own life to say unequivocally something is deadly wrong with how we have been doing things. That seems a simple enough observation no matter where you sit concerning guns.
Yet, along with the headlines of just how many mass shooting there has been this year, my feed was cluttered, of course, with dense clouds of rhetoric screaming about Constitutional rights, gun bans, and “the media” sensationalizing tragedy.
I scrolled past those to hone in on the voices I believe need to be amplified most – the desperate, and now activated nation’s youth who are bone tired of feeling like walking targets in their schools.
I sat in contemplation of my own children and their vastly burdened realities last weekend with all they have grown up with. My oldest daughter who must contend with these violent acts with a daughter of her own barely at the start of her public education. My oldest son, a paramedic, who knows all too well the increasing intensity of mass shootings and gun violence. My youngest son preparing for college life where escape drills and apps to advise of active shooters are now part of informal freshmen introductions. My youngest daughter who said in the quietest voice upon learning about Santa Fe, “It keeps getting closer and closer.”
We are way overdue as a nation in meaningfully addressing the issues of divisiveness, isolation, mental illness, and emotional distortion that is being cried out as bullets by and into our children.
Frothing combativeness, groaning generational platitudes, and the lovesickness we have with guns being a central mark of freedom or destruction is getting us nowhere but dead. Literally.
There is, in spite of what is blasted at us after each incident, a place to begin.
Politifact investigated claims by politicians following the mass shooting in Las Vegas, Nevada last year that Americans “support universal background checks” for gun purchases. They found the claims tested true by an average of 94 percent in a national poll and between 84 percent and 89 percent in four other recent polls.
That is a lot of common ground to work from. Perhaps we should take our keyboard, texting, meme and phone crusades to our representative and rally our passions toward common sense approaches that respect civil liberties AND human lives.
We need to pivot this cruel 101 into a better beginning.
Wait. My mistake. Make that 103, for now.

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