Bang, Bang. You're Dead.

Springfield, West Paducah, Pearl, Jonesboro, Edinboro. America is quickly compiling a litany of towns that will forever be associated with heart-wrenching tragedies. The rash of recent school shootings makes us wonder what has happened to our nation when our children can't even feel safe in the places where they should be most secure.

Equally distressing is the fact that this kind of violence isn't especially unique. In recent years Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and many other cities have lost more than enough children to earn their places in the litany as well. For those who have survived the last couple of violent decades in America's inner cities, school shootings are nothing new. Kids are still killing kids. Only the context has changed.

On the surface, the recent school shootings appear to be the start of a terrible trend. At their root, however, they probably have much more in common with the inner-city violence that too many of us have come to expect.

Americans of all races and geographic areas are feeling the tremendous strains that come from downsizing, new technologies, globalization, and other changes. While most adults have the emotional and psychological resources to help them struggle with these transformations of society, many young people do not—and some turn to violence in response.

Violence in the media, dysfunctional families, poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, and many other social ills also share part of the blame for the culture of violence that has led to these shootings. But none of these alone can take all of the blame. And while the astonishing accessibility of firearms in America certainly made these horrible incidents possible, guns didn't cause them to happen. There is something even more fundamental going on here.

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Sojourners Magazine September-October 1998
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