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June 22, 2014

DIANE DIMOND: Kids on the front lines

News Announcer: “There's been another school shooting. This time at the Troutdale High School in Oregon, about 16 miles east of Portland.”

I don't want to write about this. It feels like screaming into the wilderness with no one listening. And I feel silly now admitting that I really thought things would change after the December 2012 mass school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

I honestly believed the senseless deaths of 26 little children and teachers (as well as one horribly misguided mother) in Connecticut was going to be a watershed event that would spur a host of new ideas to curb violence.

I was wrong. The sickening tally is in. Since the Newtown tragedy there have been 74 more shootings at American schools. That's about one per week.

What's wrong with us that we can't stop this awful trend?

Roswell, New Mexico

St. Louis, Missouri

Orlando, Florida

Atlanta and Savannah, Georgia

Gray, Maine

A gun safety group named Everytown for Gun Safety has been keeping track of each time a gun is discharged on school property – schools from K-12 to trade schools and universities. It is happening in every region of the country.

Phoenix, Arizona

Houston and Austin, Texas

Arapahoe County, Colorado

Isla Vista, Santa Monica and Fresno, California

Assaults, accidental shootings, homicides and suicides witnessed by our children. Grisly and terrifying scenes they will likely never forget and may haunt them for years.

Imagine how your child would have reacted if they had been in the boy's bathroom at the Davidson Middle School in Southgate, Michigan, last March to witness 13-year-old Tyler Nichols shoot himself in the head.

Kids across America now have similar haunting memories etched into their psyche.

Hazard, Kentucky

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Grambling, Louisiana

Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Memphis and Clarksville, Tennessee

Of the 74 school shootings since Newtown, 35 took place at institutions of higher learning. Think about that when you send your kid off to college. The remainder of the incidents, 39 at this writing, occurred in lower grade schools, and it didn't matter if they were public or private schools, religious or non-denominational. All schools are potential targets. Ponder that for a moment.

Chicago, Illinois

Cincinnati, Kent and Lyndhurst, Ohio

Des Moines and Algona, Iowa

Milwaukee and Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Rapid City, South Dakota

Christiansburg, Virginia

Raytown, Missouri

Now, just last week, episode number 74 occurred at a high school in Troutdale, Oregon. A teenager with a rifle shot and killed a 14-year-old freshman and wounded a gym teacher before killing himself.

This is the shocking reality of what we have allowed to become an almost regular occurrence. Yet communities seem stunned when it happens close to home.

The most discouraging section of the Everytown for Gun Safety summary concludes that, just like the latest 15-year-old shooter in Oregon,  many of the under-age gunmen, “Had easy access to guns at home” or from other adults in their life.  

Let's get real, folks. Common sense tells us kids don't get guns by walking into a sporting goods store and buying one. Officials estimate there are more than 300 million privately owned firearms in the U.S. (that doesn't count the guns used by law enforcement, the military or those illegally held). There are plenty of opportunities for a minor to get their hands on one.  

If you are one of the millions of Americans who choose to own a gun, SECURE IT.  This is a call to responsible gun owners everywhere to act responsibly so the rest of us can feel safer when we send our children off to school. You carefully lock up your car, so do the same with your firearms.

Visit Diane Dimond's official website at www.dianedimond.com.

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