By Yuram Abdullah Weiler

U.S. School Shootings: A post-modern form of child sacrifice?

June 1, 2022 - 16:46

“Dismissing the idea of child sacrifice stops us seeing the bigger picture.” —Dr. Josephine Quinn of Oxford University [1]

Nineteen more American school children have been sacrificed on the altar of the U.S. Constitution to the god of gun ownership rights, rekindling the incendiary debate between gun rights supporters and gun control advocates. Such acrimonious argumentation and harried handwringing regularly occurs after each mass school shooting in the U.S.; it is a political rite in a culture where the right of gun ownership is sacrosanct, and gun owners tenaciously cling to their 2nd Amendment rights, even when it results in the slaughter of young school children.

On Tuesday, May 24, 2022, an 18-year-old armed with an assault rifle entered Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, and opened fire, killing 19 children, two teachers and wounding 17 others.  This sanguinary school shooting spree carried out by a gunman with a legally-acquired military-style weapon was merely the 119th in the U.S. since 2018.[2]  With a total to date of some 146 children and adults killed and 182 others injured in U.S. mass school shootings,[3] these atrocities could be viewed as a post-modern form of child sacrifice.

American Exceptionalism

Researchers are calling the epidemic of mass school shootings in the U.S. a public health crisis. By definition, a mass shooting occurs when four or more people, not including the shooter, are killed.[4] With 288 school shooting incidents having occurred from January 2009 to May 2018, the U.S. is a world leader given these grim and worrisome numbers, and an extreme statistical outlier as well, with the number two country, Mexico, standing at only 8. Given the number and frequency of school shootings in the U.S. as compared to other nations around the world, this crisis would appear to be uniquely American.[5]  To put it another way, the U.S. has 57 times as many school shooting incidents as the combined total for rest of the world, where numerous nations from Argentina to the United Kingdom have reported no such events.[6] On the average, some 3,200 American children each year, which is nine every day, are killed with guns. Guns are the leading cause of death for American children and teens aged one to 19 years.[7]

Based on statistics for the year 2019, the U.S. is also number two in the world for gun deaths and gun-related suicides. While the U.S. has a gun-related death rate of over 12 per 100,000 persons, Japan’s rate is only 0.06 per 100,000, about 200 times better than that of the world’s first nuclear aggressor. How does Japan, with a population of some 127 million, deal with gun control? In order to purchase a gun, a Japanese citizen must first attend an all-day class and pass a written exam. Next, the individual must attain an accuracy rating of 95% on a shooting range test, and pass a mental evaluation performed at a hospital, after which is a comprehensive background check by the government. Then, and only then is the person permitted to purchase a weapon, and then only rifles or shotguns, not military-style assault weapons. For continued ownership, the class and exam must be repeated every three years.[8]  With no school shootings identified within the country, Japan, unlike the U.S., does not sacrifice its precious children to the god of gun ownership rights.

The Great Political Divide

On one side, the solutions presented by gun control advocates, mainly members of the Democratic Party, are straightforward and evidence-based: enact stricter gun control measures that require background checks and waiting periods, increase the legal age for purchase from 18 to 21, and outlaw semi-automatic assault weapons, or at least limit the bullet capacity of their magazines.  After all, what is the point of allowing civilians to own military-style weapons that are specifically designed for use in a combat zone and to inflict as much damage as possible on human beings?  U.S. president Bill Clinton had signed a bill banning the sale of AR-15 and similar semi-automatic assault weapons in 1994, resulting in a 43 percent drop in gun deaths, but George W. Bush allowed the ban to expire in 2004. The subsequent decade of 2004-14 showed an appalling 239 percent surge in deaths due to gun massacres, where six or more were killed.[9]

On the other hand, gun rights advocates, mostly members of the Republican Party, argue that restricting gun ownership is an encroachment upon their right to own arms as guaranteed by the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  Some argue that children should be protected by armed guards in school, in the same way that money is in a bank. They maintain that a specially trained police force is necessary and that schools should be “hardened” by limiting access through a single entryway, reinforced with additional security measures like metal detectors. Others insist that the focus must be on individual problems and not on gun control.  Still others go so far as to propose training and arming teachers.[10]  Of course, arming teachers puts firearms in classrooms and increases the risk that someone else may gain access to a gun and shoot or be shot outside of an “active shooter” situation.  Furthermore, expecting an armed teacher, with minimal training, to assess correctly and respond quickly to a shooter in the classroom is simply unrealistic.[11]

Regrettably, given the lack of political will in the U.S. when it comes to implementing gun control, these mass shooting events can be expected to continue. Consequently, hospitals must have staff and facilities capable of treating the inevitable victims. Dr. Sage R. Myers, of Children's Hospital of Philadelphia writes, “Given that mass shootings are unfortunately commonplace, all hospitals – regardless of trauma center status – should expect and prepare for the eventuality of a mass casualty event involving both adults and children.”[12]

The Deeper Problem

While many place the blame for the current impasse over what to do about school shootings and prevent children from becoming sacrificial victims of the so-called “gun lobby” and the gun makers, few are taking note of the multibillion dollar “gun violence” industry that is capitalizing on the ever-expanding market for “solutions” to this perplexing plague.  The services offered by this cadre of companies ranges from bulletproof backpacks and Bible-shaped gun cases, to training on how to handle active shooter situations.  The image of the armed law-abiding citizen confronting an active shooter in self-defense indeed makes for a powerful marketing tool that is being exploited by many security firms, however, there is little scientifically verifiable evidence to support the effectiveness of this concept, so it appears to be more mythology than fact.[13]

Moreover, the society at large seems to be moving towards acceptance of gun violence as a fact of life in the United States, as evidenced by the proliferation of “active shooter drills” in the nation’s schools.  Those who have money and means move into gated communities, where private security patrols provide a level of protection that is inaccessible to those of lesser economic status. Due to the vast income inequality between well-heeled Americans and most working poor, the U.S. is becoming more like a stereotypical third-world country, such as those that were derided by the previous occupant of the Oval Office, in which children are at risk of being caught in the crossfire between police and gangs.  And as economic inequality in the U.S. increases, the security for most children decreases, except for those fortunate enough to have been born into wealthy families.[14]

Conclusion

The repugnant practice of child sacrifice has persisted throughout the history of the world. Recent research has shown that the people of Carthage sacrificed their children to their chief god, Baal Hammon, and later to the goddess Tanit, based on their beliefs that human blood was needed to maintain the gods’ supernatural powers.  When Agathocles the Sicilian invaded Africa in 310 BC, the Carthaginian priests blamed the disaster on the wealthy families, who would substitute the children of their slaves for their own in the sickening sacrificial rites.[15]

In an analogous fashion, U.S. gun ownership advocates act based on their belief that any encroachment upon their assumed constitutional right to own military-style assault weapons represents a bona fide threat to their personal freedom. Hence, they will fight ruthlessly and irrationally against any and all such reasonable attempts by authorities to regulate or restrict these lethal firearms.  Much like the Carthaginians of old, these gun fanatics are willing to sacrifice the children of others to maintain the power of their god of gun ownership rights.

Endnotes

[1] “Ancient Carthaginians really did sacrifice their children,” Oxford University, January 23, 2014, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2014-01-23-ancient-carthaginians-really-did-sacrifice-their-children.

[2]  Libby Stanford and Evie Blad, “At Least 19 Children, 2 Teachers Killed in Texas Elementary School Shooting,” EducationWeek, May 25, 2022, accessed May 29, 2022, https://www.edweek.org/leadership/at-least-19-children-1-teacher-killed-in-texas-elementary-school-shooting/2022/05.

[3] James Densley and Jillian Peterson, “What we know about mass school shootings in the US – and the gunmen who carry them out,” The Conversation, May 25, 2022, accessed May 29, 2022, https://theconversation.com/what-we-know-about-mass-school-shootings-in-the-us-and-the-gunmen-who-carry-them-out-183812.

[4] Jillian Peterson, PhD; Gina Erickson, PhD; Kyle Knapp, BA2; et al, “Communication of Intent to Do Harm Preceding Mass Public Shootings in the United States, 1966 to 2019,” JAMA Network Open, November 4, 2021, accessed May 29, 2022, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2785799.

[5] “School Shootings by Country 2022,” World Population Review, accessed May 30, 2022, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/school-shootings-by-country.

[6] Chip Grabow and Lisa Rose, “The US has had 57 times as many school shootings as the other major industrialized nations combined,” CNN, May 21, 2018, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/21/us/school-shooting-us-versus-world-trnd/index.html.

[7] “A Public Health Crisis Decades in the Making: A Review of 2019 CDC Gun Mortality Data,” Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, 2021, accessed May 30, 2022, https://efsgv.org/wp-content/uploads/2019CDCdata.pdf.

[8] “Gun Deaths by Country 2022,” World Population Review, accessed May 30, 2022, https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/gun-deaths-by-country.

[9] Christopher Ingraham, “It’s time to bring back the assault weapons ban, gun violence experts say,” Washington Post, February 15, 2018, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2018/02/15/its-time-to-bring-back-the-assault-weapons-ban-gun-violence-experts-say/.

[10] David A. Lieb, “Governors diverge on gun control, school security efforts,” Associated Press, May 29, 2022, accessed May 29, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/uvalde-school-shooting-shootings-texas-education-gun-politics-d0068588c18121bae79f2a3f1a58a49d.

[11] “Stop Arming Teachers,” Everytown for Gun Safety Action Fund, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.everytown.org/solutions/arming-teachers/.

[12] “Most Mass Shootings Occur Closest to Hospitals without Verification to Treat Trauma,” CHOP News, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, March 18, 2020, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.chop.edu/news/most-mass-shootings-occur-closest-hospitals-without-verification-treat-trauma.

[13] Elizabeth MacBride, “America's Gun Business Is $28B. The Gun Violence Business Is Bigger,” Forbes, November 25, 2018, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.forbes.com/sites/elizabethmacbride/2018/11/25/americas-gun-business-is-28b-the-gun-violence-business-is-bigger/?sh=73fb39013ae8.

[14] Juan Cole, “When it comes to Guns, the US is a Third World Country run by Corporate Lobbyists for a Profit,” Informed Comment, May 25, 2022, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.juancole.com/2022/05/country-corporate-lobbyists.html.

[15] Nathaniel Weyl, “Some Possible Genetic Implications of Carthaginian Child Sacrifice,” Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Johns Hopkins University Press, 12-1 (1968): 69-78, accessed May 30, 2022, https://muse.jhu.edu/article/405928.

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