Even before all the details are known, what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary this morning is clearly a horrible human tragedy, unimaginable whether or not you are a parent. It’s also a gun violence tragedy and we have way too many of those – and I say that as someone who is generally pro-gun rights (“generally” means also pro-sensible regulation of some kinds of firearms). Still, and this is of course cold consolation to the families directly involved, while incidents like this at schools stun us and seize headlines, overall gun violence is not common in schools. CDC data show that less than 2 percent of youth homicides even occur at school (while overall homicide is the second leading cause of death for Americans aged 25-24). In terms of risks to students in school there are other more prevalent issues – bullying and other safety issues.
So what happened today should lead us to have a serious conversation about gun violence – although many other awful incidents in the past should have as well, and have not. But other than common sense security measures the implications for schools are much less obvious and we should seek to disentangle what is a societal problem from what is a school problem.