Two more school shootings
by Vijaya Chandrasoma
The American love affair with guns, mostly of white Republicans living in the “southern slave states”, continues unabated. Apart from gun violence which claims over 35,000 American lives per year, school shootings, the killing of the future of the nation, our children, are depressingly regular. According to a Washington Post database, “an estimated 27,000 students on K-12 campuses across 22 states were exposed to gun violence in 2021”, and there have been more school shootings, 30 in 2021 than in any other year in this century. Needless to say, the vast majority of these shootings occur in Republican controlled “Red States”.
There were two school shootings in the USA last week. Both were on November 30. These brutal murders will hold the headlines for a few days and then inevitably disappear into a cloud of “thoughts and prayers”.
Promises by politicians to restrict the sales of military-style guns are made after each tragedy. Other basic precautions, like a waiting period of at least two weeks before purchase, background checks, are popular with over 70% of the population.
However, these promises are quickly forgotten, in the face of opposition of a great majority of Republican congressmen who have taken residence in the deep, Russian backed pockets of the National Rifle Association. And the threat of violence by white supremacist Trump supporters, like the resurgent KKK, the Proud Boys and the Oathkeepers. The Base.
The 30th shooting occurred on the night of November 30, when 18-year-old Jadon Hardiman of Jackson, Tennessee killed one man and wounded two others in the gym at Humboldt High School, during a basketball game. No student was involved in this altercation between adults which led to the shooting.
Perhaps this tragedy cannot technically be included in the list of school shootings, as no student was involved. It was just another Tuesday evening in America, just another shootout, just another round in one of America’s main national sports. And I don’t mean basketball.
Earlier that day, there was another far more gruesome tragedy in Michigan, when a 15- year-old male, white student of Oxford High School, Ethan Crumbley, was allowed to carry a gun into the school premises, emerged from the bathroom armed with a semi-automatic handgun and killed four fellow students, wounding seven others, including a teacher.
This school killing, the 29th such shooting for the year, was tragedy enough. But the timeline leading to the murders is even more stupefying.
Friday, November 26. The shooter’s father, James Crumbley, accompanied by his son, Ethan, buys a 9mm Sig Sauer, acclaimed as one of the top five 9 mm pistols in the world today. Designated as a “Conceal and Carry” weapon, it is used by law enforcement and military organizations worldwide, and is freely available to the public. No waiting period. No background check, over-the-counter, no questions asked. Easy-peasy, like buying a can of beans at Walmart.
The pistol was purchased by Crumbley as a Christmas present for his 15-year-old son. Santa sure came early for the Crumbleys this year. Sadly, there would be no more Christmases for his four victims.
Later the same day, the shooter posts an Instagram of himself holding the semi-automatic handgun, writing: “Just got my new beauty today. Sig Sauer 9 mm. Any questions I will answer”.
Saturday, November 27. The shooter’s mother Jennifer Crumbley, writes on social media that it is a “mom and son day testing out his Christmas present”.
Monday, November 29. A teacher at the Oxford High School, reports to the school authorities that she saw Ethan searching for ammunition on-line with his cell phone, during class. Ethan says, at a meeting with the school counsellor, that “shooting sports are a family hobby”. School personnel call his mother, leave a voicemail and email her, leaving details of the incident. They evoke no response from her. She later writes in a text to her son: “Lol (Laugh out loud). I’m not mad at you. You have to learn not to get caught”.
The same night, Ethan records a video in which “he discusses killing students”, according to Oxford Sheriff deputy, Tim Willis.
Tuesday, November 30. A teacher finds a note on Ethan’s desk, that alarms her sufficiently to take a photograph, which she showed to the school’s counsellors and the dean. The note was the drawing of a handgun and the words, “The thoughts won’t stop. Help me”. Also depicted is a bullet with the words “blood everywhere”, above a person who appears to have been shot. The note also says, “my life is useless” and “the world is dead”.
Ethan’s parents are summoned and shown the note. Ethan’s explanation about pursuing a career in video game design, confirmed by his parents, is accepted, and he is deemed not to be a risk to harm others. The parents resisted the school’s request that Ethan be taken home for the day, on grounds of work assignments. They were told to get Ethan into counselling within 48 hours, and allowed to go, leaving the shooter at the school.
In spite of all this evidence, school authorities did not check the contents of Ethan’s backpack which contained the deadly weapon.
This final and incredible verdict of the head of the Oxford Community School District, after the investigation before the shooting, was that “there were no grounds for discipline”. A verdict almost immediately found to be criminally egregious, and resulted in another shooting. A shooting which could have been avoided if an obviously murderously unhinged teenager had been immediately removed from the school after the evidence uncovered during the investigation before the shooting.
As a professor of psychology at Westchester Community College attested, in a letter to the New York Times: “As a clinical psychologist who has evaluated dozens of emotionally distressed students who may have posed a danger to their fellow students, I find the story of Oxford High School administrators allowing Ethan Crumbley back into the classroom profoundly disturbing”.
Ethan Crumbley has now been charged as an adult of 24 charges, including four counts of first degree murder, and one count of terrorism causing death He has pleaded Not Guilty to all charges, and denied bail.
The parents, James and Jennifer Crumbley have been charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter. They left their home after the shooting and went into hiding. As they had not presented themselves to the authorities by Friday night, they were arrested after a police manhunt that ended in the basement of a Detroit warehouse. They have pleaded Not Guilty to all charges and have been held on $500,000 bail each.
This is an endless theme, but had this been a Black or Latino kid, he would have been held, on the evidence uncovered by the investigation, until the arrival of law enforcement. When they found the weapon in his backpack, along with evidence of the bloody drawings and videos, he would have immediately been arrested and thrown in jail on a variety of charges. His black or Latino parents would not even have been summoned. For what reason? The evidence against their son had been conclusive enough, if only because of the colour of his skin. Or, more accurately, because he was not white.
We all remember how, in August 2020, Kyle Rittenhouse, a 17-year-old from Antioch, Illinois, was driven cross-state to Kenosha, Wisconsin, by his mother, armed with an AR 15 assault rifle, to “protect the property of people threatened during the Black Lives Matter protests”. People he had never met, people who had never requested vigilante protection. The riots had erupted after the gruesome murder of George Floyd and the shooting of Jacob Blake, an African American who was shot seven times by a Kenosha police officer, and remains paralyzed for life.
Rittenhouse used his deadly AR 15 assault rifle to kill two protesters, wounding a third, with the motive that he was “protecting property”. After the killing, he casually walked past a law-enforcement vehicle, whose officers, with their intuitive knowledge that killing causes dehydration, tossed him bottles of water so that his murderous thirst may be slaked. He was allowed to go back to his home in Antioch that night, and was arrested only a week later.
In the recently concluded trial against him, Kyle was acquitted of all charges, and remains a free man today.
So there is hope for Ethan Crumbley, given today’s system of American justice, with the courts heavily weighted with Republican, Trump appointed judges, in thousands of district and federal courts. Strangely, Bruce Schroeder, the judge who presided over the Rittenhouse trial was appointed in 1983 by a Democratic governor. After his behaviour of repeatedly and viciously reprimanding the prosecution in the Rittenhouse trial, it was obvious that Schroeder had switched sides. A comedian commented that he should have been wearing a KKK hood at the trial, instead of the robes of a judge. Sadly, a completely credible piece of satire.
Ethan also may get lucky, as Rittenhouse did. He also may have his trial heard before one of the thousands of the aforementioned white supremacist judges. He may be released with a rap on the wrist, free to pursue his chosen career as a “video game designer”, or more likely on the evidence, a serial killer.
Again, touching on a repetitious theme ad nauseam, had a 17-year-old Black or Latino kid behaved the way Rittenhouse did in Kenosha, he would have been shot to death within minutes by a hail of police bullets.
December has dawned, and Christmas is in the air. ‘Tis the season of peace on earth, of universal kindness expressed by goodwill toward all, and renewed feelings of brotherhood and love. This is the month of office parties and Christmas bonuses, of exchanging gifts; of awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus, hoping he has judged you to be nice, not naughty. This is the time where many families celebrate their achievements and joyful events of the year with Christmas cards, with beautiful pictures of their families.
My favourite, so far, is the Christmas card of Kentucky Republican Congressman Thomas Massie. He posted a Christmas group photograph of his beautiful family, each posing proudly carrying a military-style assault rifle.
This vile family photograph, probably designed by the National Rifle Association, was exhibited to the public just a few days after the Oxford and Tennessee shootings. No doubt a pre-emptive defence against any public outcry at these shootings. A photograph which will meet with the approval of his Kentuckian constituents, his re-election assured. The tacit, if gleeful endorsement of his Republican congressional colleagues across the country can be taken for granted.
And displaying more of the Republican Christmas spirit, Massie tweeted the photograph with the caption: “Merry Christmas! ps. Santa, please bring ammo”.