Most school shooters get their guns at home – and we’re buying more | Thursday Morning Coffee

That combination has boosted the risk of a tragedy such as this week’s school shooting in Michigan, a trio of public health experts say

December 2, 2021 7:16 am

(Getty Images/The Michigan Advance)

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Gun sales nationwide spiked during the pandemic, and continue to rise, with many of those weapons ending up in homes with teenaged children, opening the door to tragedies such as the school shooting in southeast Michigan this week that left four people dead and seven people injured.

Writing for The Conversation, a trio of public health and firearms safety experts note that, four days before the attack, the father of the 15-year-old sophomore implicated in the attack purchased the firearm allegedly used in the rampage.

“As experts on firearm violence and firearm injury prevention, we know that active shooter events within school settings in the U.S. have increased substantially in the years running up to the pandemic,” Patrick Carter and Marc A. Zimmerman, of the University of Michigan, and Rebeccah Sokol, of Detroit-based Wayne State University, wrote in an analysis published this week.

The experts nod to the reality that school shootings, while hugely destructive and traumatic, represent a fraction of the mass shootings that take place in the United States every year. But, they note, there is an inescapable truth: About half of all shootings are committed by current or former students, and in about three-quarters of all instances, the gun was obtained at home, or from a friend or a relative.

nationwide survey of nearly 3,000 parents and their teenage children by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Firearm Injury Prevention that the researchers used to reach their findings had some eye-opening takeaways.

Namely that:

  • “10% of households with teens reported purchasing additional firearms between March and July 2020.
  • “Of that total, “around 3% were first-time buyers,” which means that “more teenagers were being exposed to firearms around the home, and also that the number of firearms in households with teenage children increased.”
  • And while “many firearm owners look after their guns responsibly by maintaining them locked, unloaded and inaccessible to teens, access to unsecured firearms remains the single biggest contributor to teen firearm injury and death. Our survey indicated that in the midst of the increased firearm purchasing during COVID, more firearms were being kept unsecured within homes with teenagers.”

The researchers note that it’s far too early to draw any conclusions in the Michigan shooting about “how the shooter obtained access to the firearm recently purchased by his father.”

But, they write, “one clear action that parents can take to help reduce the likelihood of future tragic school shootings and to keep their teens safe is to ensure any firearms present in the home are secured safely, locked up and unloaded, and out of the reach of teens.”

(Photo via Getty Images/Colorado Newsline.)

Meanwhile, students, educators, and Democratic officials across Michigan are calling for more than the usual thoughts and prayers in the wake of the shooting, and are demanding action from policymakers, our sibling site, The Michigan Advance, reports.

“Ultimately, tragedies like these are always a shock, but, in another way, it’s not that shocking because we’re facing a gun violence epidemic in our country and state,” Megan Dombrowski, a Wayne State University political science student who founded a campus chapter of the anti-gun violence group Students Demand Actiontold the Advance.

“A lot of people offer thoughts and prayers and say now isn’t the time for action,” Dombrowski told the Advance. “But we don’t have a moment to wait for action.”

That action, Dombrowski told the Advance, would require Michigan state lawmakers and their federal counterparts to pass bills requiring gun owners to lock up firearms in their homes, and Michigan lawmakers passing proposed legislation that would disarm people convicted of domestic violence misdemeanors, among other initiatives aimed at curbing the gun violence that kills about 1,200 people every year in Michigan.

Solomon Jones, the founder of ManUpPHL and a WURD radio host, said his group ‘decided to gather some data about the causes, effects and solutions around gun violence’ (Philadelphia Tribune file photo).

It’s not a problem restricted to Michigan either. As we reported earlier this week, in Philadelphia, local advocates have turned to Black youth most directly impacted by the city’s epidemic of gun violence for solutions.

“We decided to gather some data about the causes, effects and solutions around gun violence,” Solomon Jones, the executive director and founder of the advocacy group, ManUpPHLtold our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune last week, as his organization released a 27-page report on its “Listening to the Streets” initiative.

There’s a tragic irony here that the Michigan shooting came a little more than two weeks ahead of the ninth anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

A local chapter of the anti-gun violence group, Moms Demand Action, have scheduled a 6 p.m. vigil on the Capitol’s front steps for the evening of Dec. 14 to remember those who died in the shootings, which took place on Dec. 14, 2012.

As we’ve reported in the past, Pennsylvania’s Republican-controlled General Assembly has rejected any number of commonsense, gun violence-prevention measures in favor of bills that both make it easier for people to get their hands on weapons, and harder to municipalities to stem the carnage within their borders.

And three years after the murders at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue that left 11 people dead, the Legislature has offered plenty of platitudes — but zero action.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Advocates want a more diverse General Assembly during the current round of redistricting. But making that a reality is complicatedStephen Caruso reports.

Pennsylvania reproductive rights advocates rallied Wednesday as the U.S. Supreme Court launched its history-making review of Mississippi’s restrictive abortion law, Marley Parish reports.

In Washington D.C., protesters from Pennsylvania and across the country, from both sides of the divide, squared off the at U.S. Supreme Court as the justices heard the landmark abortion case, Capital-Star Washington Reporter Ariana Figueroa writes.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health confirmed 7,606 new cases of COVID-19 in the commonwealth on Wednesday, bringing the statewide total to more than 1.74 million since the beginning of the pandemic, I report.

During a stop in Minnesota on Tuesday, President Joe Biden pitched his infrastructure law as a ‘blue-collar blueprint to rebuild America,’ our sibling site, the Minnesota Reformer, reports.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Garrow, of Pittsburgh, talks to our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper about his work helping to exonerate two men convicted of killing Malcolm X.

In today’s edition of Helping the Helpers, our partners at the Uniontown Herald-Standard highlight the efforts of the Connellsville Historical Society, which is working tirelessly to preserve its home area’s past.

En la Estrella-Capital: Cómo apoyar a los veteranos de Pa. y miembros del servicio esta temporada de fiestas. Y Lebanon Gives: Una iniciativa que busca hacer del condado de Lebanon un lugar mejor.

On our Commentary Page this morning, opinion regular Mark O’Keefe explains what the 2021 judicial races tell us about 2022 and beyond.

#Giving Tuesday might be over, but you can still support the Pennsylvania Capital-Star’s independent journalism as we try to hit our seasonal fund-raising goal of $2,000. Click our Donate Page to make your tax-deductible contribution.

The Inquirer takes a look at the pseudoscience that now-U.S. Senate candidate Mehmet Oz has peddled on his TV show.

PennLive’s Charlie Thompson also runs down the current state of the nominating race for U.S. Senate.

Dozens rallied in Pittsburgh on Wednesday in support of reproductive rights, the Post-Gazette reports.

LG Health and WellSpan have temporarily halted elective surgeries amid a rise in COVID-19 hospitalizations, LancasterOnline reports.

COVID-19 admissions are increasing at Erie-area hospitalsGoErie reports.

The York Daily Record explains why federal infrastructure money won’t help when it comes to a plan to toll the South Bridge over Interstate 83 in Harrisburg (paywall).

The Morning Call runs down the Lehigh Valley lawmakers who are seeking re-election even as the state’s redistricting process chugs uncertainly along.

Lackawanna County commissioners have approved a no-tax hike budget for 2022, the Times-Tribune reports (paywall).

Public health officials in Philadelphia are urging residents to take precautions against the omicron variant, WHYY-FM reports.

WITF-FM profiles the supply chain problems that are plaguing the Port of Philadelphia.

The Observer-Reporter looks at local Hanukkah celebrations in Washington County. updates on the status of tele-health in the late-stage pandemic.

State redistricting commissions are getting mixed reviews for their efforts to take partisanship out of an inevitably partisan process, Roll Call reports.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
The desk is clear. Enjoy the silence.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

Heavy Rotation
If you’ve been paying attention to your friends’ social media feeds, then you know their Spotify Wrappeds were released Wednesday. You may be surprised by some of their listening choices — you may be surprised by your own. Here’s one of my big listens from 2021: ‘Ahead of the Game,’ by former Spandau Ballet songwriter Gary Kemp.

Thursday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Edmonton’s Connor McDavid notched four points as the Oilers bested Pittsburgh 5-2 on Wednesday. The Pens are 0-2-1 in their last three starts.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.