Dobie: Gunfire in schools is a disturbing status quo

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A police officer leads two women and a A police officer leads two women and a child from Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman opened fire, killing 26 people, including 20 children. (Dec. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

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Michael Dobie Michael Dobie is a member of the Newsday

Michael Dobie is a member of the Newsday editorial board.

Thank God we're at the end of the school year.

Another month, another shooting in another school.

It's not that it seems that way. It literally is that way.

Since Sandy Hook in December 2012, there have been at least 74 incidents in which a gun was fired in a school or on school grounds. Research by CNN found that 16 of those, including the one last week in Troutdale, Oregon, involved someone intentionally shooting at others. Take away when schools were not in session, that's one per month.

Before Troutdale it was Taft, California. And Sparks, Nevada. And Centennial, Colorado. And Newtown, Connecticut.

Many of the communities look like many of ours.

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The school superintendent in Troutdale said she had hoped she would never have to deal with such an incident in her career. Well, of course. But, she had been thinking about it. The way some parents putting their children on buses in the morning think about it. It's a nagging doubt, it's insidious and it's slowly becoming part of our shared experience.

Some of the incidents have common threads, but not all.

Some of the perpetrators had serious mental health issues. Some were seeking revenge. Some were classmates in the kind of argument once solved with a playground fistfight.

Somehow what once was inconceivable -- like running a 4-minute mile decades ago -- has become common. How did we get here? When was that barrier shattered? Sometime after Columbine, most likely.

So, where do we seek solutions?

Is it the too-easy access to guns? Is it the difficulty in getting counseling to those who need it? Is it desensitization to violence from video games and movies? Is it too many angry boys and angry young men? Is it copycats seeking notoriety?

It's everything. All of it. That's what makes this difficult to solve.

But we have to try. Goodness knows we have to try. We can't keep moving into our separate corners and shouting the same things at each other and in the end doing nothing.

In the hours after the Troutdale shooting, some social media posters pre-emptively warned not to use the episode as another rallying cry to take away our guns. The National Rifle Association posted a piece claiming the Troutdale shooter was thwarted by two armed security guards and was able to kill only one person besides himself. Newtown, the NRA notes, had no armed guard to stop Adam Lanza, who took 26 lives. The solution to bad guys with guns, in other words, is good guys with guns. Which means people still get shot. At school.

Installing hotlines to police, as some Long Island schools have done, improves response times but doesn't address the root causes of this violence.

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What can we do that does not involve turning our schools into fortresses and making our kids feel under siege?

We need to understand better what motivates these young males, whether they are teens or young adults. We need to improve our ability to diagnose mental health problems and intervene before it's too late -- and understand that this is a problem for families and friends as well as professionals. We need to reduce the amount of fantasy violence our boys absorb. And we need to keep them away from guns.

There's a company in Oklahoma that makes what it calls a bulletproof blanket. It is marketing the bright orange pads to schools. Ads feature images of children huddled underneath them in fetal positions in a school hallway.

Is this what we've come to?

Anybody else want something different?

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