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School shootings cry out for class-action litigation, new gun-control laws

October 2, 2015, 9:50 am

We are a nation obsessed with guns and awash in guns. Our schools at every level – from elementary on up to the best colleges and universities – are unsafe.

The O Zone by David O. Williams

The O Zone by David O. Williams

As I sent my kids off to school this morning, I told them to have good days, but for all I know – even in a place as seemingly safe as the Vail Valley – today could be the worst day of their young lives. Even the last day.

Somebody who fits an increasingly routine profile – a young white male who spends the majority of his time online and is essentially a mentally ill loner being conditioned by the Internet to become a mass murderer – is right now plotting the next school shooting.

My sons’ schools could be next. And some parent out there has to know, in the back of their mind, that their son could be the next shooter.

And yet we will do absolutely nothing about it. A complicit president, who has seemed emotionally impacted every time and expresses great horror and outrage, will do very little to stem the tide of violence. Congress will do even less.

There have been 142 school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary – the event that was supposedly so horrific it would have to spark some sort of change.

But something so many people support, something as basic as universal background checks to purchase a gun, can’t come close to being passed because of the overwhelming might of the gun lobby and the criminal political influence of the National Rifle Association. At least it should be criminal, or actionable in civil lawsuits.

The only way to enact gun control along the lines of Australia’s National Firearms Agreement enforced after their nation’s worst mass shooting – Port Arthur in 1996 – may be litigation along the lines of class-action lawsuits that reined in our nation’s rampant tobacco industry.

Americans love their guns, but they love litigating even more, and the thousands of gun deaths in this country every year have reached epidemic proportions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 315,000 Americans died in gun violence between 2004 and 2013.

The annual number of guns deaths (more than 30,000, including suicides) pales in comparison to the 480,000 smoking deaths a year that forced the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement in 1998. But gun deaths are much more publicized and much more horrific, and eventually the economic impact to our public institutions could (and I think should) become debilitating.

The first questions you ask when deciding where to send your kids to school shouldn’t be academic ones; they should be centered on safety and security. What’s your plan in the event of a mass shooting? How much security do you have on campus, and how well trained are they?

The first questions reporters now need to ask after school shootings shouldn’t be about coping and dealing with the emotional aftermath; they should be about public policy, mental health laws, and, most importantly, gun control.

Some Republican presidential candidates have already stooped to the level of accusing President Obama of politicizing the latest tragedy. Their answer? More guns.

Everyone on campus should be packing and should be ready to return fire in the event that the unthinkable suddenly becomes thinkable. And why wouldn’t it be thinkable given there have already been 45 school shootings in the United States so far this year?

More guns, politicians in the pocket of the NRA tell us, will make us much more safe (and gun company executives much more wealthy). That theory flies fully in the face of the evidence, and ignores the facts in the Australia, where more restrictive guns laws have made it a safer nation.

Oregon’s governor and the sheriff in the latest school shooting at Umpqua College both say it’s too soon for the debate over gun control to enter into the conversation. But they’re both dead wrong. It’s actually way too late for the victims and their families, and way too late to prevent the next tragedy, which some societally estranged young man is plotting at this very moment.


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David O. Williams

Managing Editor at RealVail
David O. Williams is an award-winning energy, environmental, political, entertainment, outdoor and sports writer based in the Vail Valley. His work has appeared in publications such as The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, Denver Post, LA Weekly,, SKI Magazine, Powder and People Magazine. He also regularly contributes to The Colorado Statesman and Atlantic Media's

One Response to School shootings cry out for class-action litigation, new gun-control laws

  1. Michael Beckley Reply

    October 3, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    David……I absolutely agree with you. It is horrifying what occurs way too frequently but I’m increasingly convinced it won’t change. The politicians are so “bought and paid for” that enacting or litigating would involve the very people it would impact. They would never impact themselves. They are reprehensible. The answer is term limitations, total campaign finance reform and public shaming of those taking funds from the NRA. I, personally, don’t see any of those happening. I pray for your and my children.

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