Three killed by gunshots on March 30, 2023; two arrested soon after for the murders, and another suspect a fugitive. The ages of shooters to victims range from 12 to 17. Think of that: A 12-year-old, a 16-year-old, and a 17-year-old kill two 16-year-olds and a 17-year-old.
However, Sheriff Billy Woods of Marion County, Florida, where the murders occurred, has an explanation. He said in an April 8th news conference that, “There are individuals out there viewing, and includes some of you media, that want to blame the one thing that has no ability or the capacity to commit the crime itself, and that’s the gun. These individuals committed the crime,” He went on to parrot that tired logic that bad guys will always get guns no matter the law and that, “Our school districts, not just here, across this state and nation need to quit minimizing the actions of their students. Hold them accountable. That’s where the failure is,”
Not long ago much of our attention was on “babies having babies” and now that scourge takes a back seat as our babies kill other babies. And Sheriff Woods gives us the reason but not the solution: It’s the fault of the school districts and the shooters who pull the triggers.
According to Sheriff Woods the boys stole the guns from cars they broke into and all six of the teenagers were connected through a crime wave, of sorts, but how and why the killings happened is not exactly known. However, Sheriff Woods explained in his press conference that there is no honor among thieves, suggesting that a disagreement of some type may have led to the shootings.
When a 12-year-old shoots and kills a not yet 18-year-old, the responsibility lies deeper than a finger on a gun trigger or a poor school system or the law enforcement in the area in which such a horrific deed takes place. To quote Pogo for the first Earth Day in 1970, “We have met the enemy and he is us.” With those words, the cartoon sage criticized our polluting of the earth, and over fifty years later we continue to pollute the earth as well as our children.
I find it convenient to point my finger at reasons for three babies killing three other babies. Parents not parenting. Police not policing. Schools not schooling. Communities in multiple layers of conflict. Rancid role models in sports, entertainment, and politics. In other words, we may be close to being without anomie-those shared traditions and values that serve as guardrails to keep individuals and their communities on the path and out of the woods. ,
Anomie is a term used in sociology, and its concept goes back to ancient times. Today it is used in criminology to explain that a person chooses criminal activity because he or she believes that there is no reason not to, and feels alienated, even worthless. Thus, crime does not matter, it is a means to an end. Even for a 12-year-old in Marion County, which could be any county in America.
For me, it is obvious that we have lost our guardrails and there is no single fault. We all are responsible, but we all must be responsible for re-gaining the path to productivity not destruction. In his 1994 book In Defense of Elitism, William A. Henry, III writes,
“The missing element in every phrase of American life, from education to culture to the thicket of identity politics, is what used to be called rugged individualism….The emphasis on the dangers of individualism has obscured the virtues it offers, from the creation of jobs to the creating of art, from the awakening of ambition to the taking of risks to the imagination of new ways and new forms. Taking our identities from groups stimulates us to be like others, and therefore by definition not to be creative. Looking for equality of outcomes rather than equality of opportunities means relinquishing responsibility and control. Obsessing about justice and fairness too readily leads to succoring the disadvantaged instead of urging them to make the best of their circumstances. Individualism maximizes human potential and ultimately propels the whole human race forward, albeit admittedly at different rates of progress.”
For me this means expectations-expectations of our institutions, of our traditions, of our leaders, of and ourselves. In what should be required reading/discussion in every American high school, The Bill of Obligations (The Ten Habits of Good Citizenship), Richard Haass shows us how to re-gain what we have lost as a country and as individuals. His bill of obligations is: Be Informed, Get Involved, Stay Open to Compromise, Remain Civil, Reject Violence, Value Norms, Promote the Common Good, Respect Government Service, Support the Teaching of Civics, and Put Country First. Haass does not write about our individual rights but stresses our ten responsibilities to our communities and country.
Any supposed right comes second to our obligations.