This Week's School Shooting Was A Very American Tragedy NPR's Scott Simon reflects on this week's school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and asks if we're putting blame in the right places.
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This Week's School Shooting Was A Very American Tragedy

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This Week's School Shooting Was A Very American Tragedy

This Week's School Shooting Was A Very American Tragedy

This Week's School Shooting Was A Very American Tragedy

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/586682171/586759974" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school on Feb. 14, in Parkland, Fla. Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school on Feb. 14, in Parkland, Fla.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

One of the most wrenching sights of this week's school shooting — and that phrase alone, "this week's school shooting," is astounding — is the scene of American students once again running out of their school with their arms and hands in the air.

A few of the students seem to fight back tears. Some look like they're shaking. With their arms and hands above their head, they looked the way many Americans have felt when the words "SCHOOL SHOOTING" cross our screens every few weeks: helpless.

Just since the first of the year there have been shootings at Marshall County High School in Benton, Ky., Italy High School in Italy, Texas, and the Sal Castro Middle School in Los Angeles. Each of those incidents, and others, have their own circumstances. But no developed country in the world has as many school shootings as the United States — by far. To be a citizen of the United States is a blessing. But it comes with that curse.

A law enforcement expert explained to me this week that students who are evacuated from a school where shots have been fired are told to raise their arms as they run to safety so police can see that they don't have a gun in their hands. This week's accused shooter at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been a student there and knew the school's security procedures, may have escaped the scene by running out with his hands up, too.

We can and should add up the number of students and teachers who are killed in school shootings and not forget their names, or forget the gift of their lives. But the casualties of school shootings just don't include those killed or wounded. Each child who has to run for their life from their own school, each parent who has felt a stab in their heart to hear a child is in danger and even children and parents who may be thousands of miles away from the crime but terrified by it, have been inflicted with fear.

I have covered enough gang shootings, civil wars and mob murders, and interviewed too many survivors of school shootings to believe some magic new law could make gangs, criminals, psychopaths, the mentally ill and anyone else who shouldn't have guns line up to surrender them. But the Congressional Research Service says there are already more than 300 million guns in the United States. Should those who blame many mass shootings on poor access to mental health counseling be comfortable that Americans have mass access to so many guns?