A sobering footnote to Monday’s mass shooting at Michigan State University is not about the three dead victims but rather some of the survivors — including a college student who, 10 years ago, was among the children who lived through the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Connecticut that took the lives of her 20 classmates.
“I am 21 years old and this is the second mass shooting that I have now lived through,” Michigan State senior Jackie Matthews says in a short posted video. As The New York Times reports, she’s one of at least two survivors of the Michigan campus rampage who had already lived through an earlier school shooting. That chilling new trend should stand as a blistering condemnation of America’s wanton failure to protect its children.
Not 50 days into 2023, the attack marked the year’s 67th mass shooting. It came five years almost to the day after the Feb. 14, 2018, high school mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, that left 17 dead. At that time, an astounding 187,000 American children had experienced a school shooting since 1999, according to The Washington Post. Today, that figure stands at an unimaginable 338,000 kids — more than St. Louis’ entire population.
It’s easy to lose sight of any one shooting amid this endless parade of gun carnage, but Sandy Hook still stands as a unique tragedy, both for what happened and for what didn’t. For a brief political moment, it seemed the mind boggling scope of the loss — 20 children ages 6 and 7, along with six adults, killed by rounds from a high-capacity magazine and several weapons of war, all purchased legally — might finally shake Congress from its stupor to enact meaningful national firearms restrictions. Alas, Republicans fell back on their textbook thoughts-and-prayers response practically before the funerals were over.
Even a decade later, it’s difficult to imagine what, if not that, could convince the nation’s paralyzed leaders to finally ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and institute universal background checks, red-flag laws and other reasonable reforms. Could Jackie Matthews’ story possibly, finally provide that nudge? After all, she’s walking confirmation that school shootings are now so common that they can randomly engulf the same student more than once, miles and years apart.
In the video and media interviews, Matthews recalls being 11 and “hunched in the corner with my classmates” at Sandy Hook — and now she was across the street from the sites of Monday’s shootings on her college campus. “We can no longer just provide love and prayers,” Matthews says in the video. “We can no longer be complacent.”
Only when the voters start acting on that message will one of America’s two major parties stop blithely ignoring it. Until then, America will continue sacrificing its children to its national gun fetish.