FBI statistics tell us crime is down. Murder was down 13 percent in 1999 from the previous year, and the national crime index is down 10 percent.
But then we’re confronted by CNN reports and front-page headlines telling us a first-grader in Michigan took a gun to school and shot a classmate. No one is sure exactly why, but one possibility is a schoolyard dispute a day or two before the shooting.
The boy took the gun, which was already loaded, from off a bed in the house where he was living. The boy’s environment seems to have been a negative one. His father is in prison on a parole violation, and the police searched the house where the boy was living and found another stolen gun and drugs.
But the boy was 6 years old. Genesee County Prosecutor Arthur Busch said no charges were going to be filed against the shooter, though charges will be pursued against those responsible for giving the boy access to the .32-caliber gun.
Unlike the premeditated madness of Littleton, this was done by a child who was most likely unaware of the consequences. What is death to a child when he’s seen a thousand deaths on television? What is wrong with it, when characters on movies and television use violence and vengeance as reasonable responses to conflict?
Though crime is down, national polls show fear on the rise. Though we try and teach our children to resolve conflict peaceably, their Saturday morning heroes paint a different reality.
It’s easy for the media to pass the responsibility. But in a day where we hold cigarette makers responsible for the health problems they have caused in their pursuit of profit, how much different are those who package violence and sell it, disregarding any effect it might have, hiding behind the First Amendment?
But all these theories and games of blame will not bring back the victim and will be little consolation to her family. Nor will it lessen the haunting effect this will have on the shooter the rest of his life as he becomes old enough to realize what he’s done.
Is the next step metal detectors and police officers in elementary schools? Is this a national trend toward child perpetrated violence, or merely an isolated incident?
Though we don’t have answers to these questions, one thing is clear: Many groups in America need to look themselves in the mirror and examine what they can do.
Foremost, media outlets of all kinds need to take a deep, introspective look at what they produce. Newspaper coverage, movie themes and television content need to be examined.
Because when a 6-year-old thinks a gun will solve his problems, the availability of the weapon isn’t the only problem.
This editorial is the opinion of The Daily Universe Editorial Board. Daily Universe opinions are not necessarily the opinions of BYU, its administrators or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.