NIU shooting

The report of today’s shootings at Northern Illinois University was not just a news story to us in the Chicago area. Lots of local kids go there; everyone in my neighborhood knows a student—or knows the parents of a student—at NIU. My daughter, safe at another school, has been frantically texting and calling her friends at Northern. They’re all fine, but I won’t be surprised to learn in the next few days of a connection with one or more of the victims. Kids the same age as my daughter, gone forever.

As my wife and I were running errands this evening, we heard interviews on the radio with students who were in the class and escaped. There was a strange matter-of-factness in the way they talked, as if they had watched someone else rather than lived through it themselves. I suppose it will seem more real to them in a day or so.

This tragedy comes not only on the heels of other school shootings in Louisiana, Tennessee, and California, but just a week or so after a shooting in a suburban Chicago clothing store. There were five victims in that incident, too.

The public reaction to shootings like these has changed since I was a kid. In the 60s and 70s, these incidents would lead to calls for tougher gun control laws. Now they seem to always lead to nutty arguments for concealed-carry laws. I’ve already seen letters to the editor claiming that the clothing store shootings wouldn’t have happened if the store’s customers had been packing heat, and I won’t be surprised to see the same thing in response to the NIU story. This is almost as disturbing as the shootings themselves—not just that there are idiots who think it’s a good idea to have several people spraying bullets around, but that there’s no embarrassment associated with expressing those thoughts in public. Newspaper editors think it’s an opinion worth publishing.

Angry thoughts at the end of a bad day. I should just go to sleep.