In another dreadful, outrageous, vile act of violence, a shooter (now dead) opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, about halfway between Hartford and New York City.
There have been extremely conflicting and shifting reports on the number of people killed, but as time has gone on the number reported dead has risen. Right now the NY Times says eighteen children were killed, with other fatalities as well. US News reports eighteen children and eight adults dead.
These figures will probably change. But it’s fairly clear that loss of life was profound in this horrific crime.
Other things are clear, too. One is that this will renew calls for more and more gun control. Another is that perpetrators will always be able to get guns. A third is that it doesn’t take guns if a person wants to do this sort of thing: the worst mass killing of schoolchildren in the US occurred in 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan, and involved bombs.
You may never have heard of it before (perhaps because it doesn’t serve the anti-gun lobby), but here are the basic facts:
he Bath School disaster is the name given to three bombings in Bath Township, Michigan, on May 18, 1927, which killed 38 elementary school children, two teachers, four other adults and the bomber himself; at least 58 people were injured. Most of the victims were children in the second to sixth grades (7–14 years of age attending the Bath Consolidated School. Their deaths constitute the deadliest mass murder in a school in U.S. history and the fourth-deadliest massacre in U.S. history, behind the Oklahoma City bombing, the Mountain Meadows massacre and 9/11.
The bomber was school board treasurer Andrew Kehoe, 55, who was enraged about a property tax levied to fund the construction of the school building. He blamed the additional tax for financial hardships which led to foreclosure proceedings against his farm. These events apparently provoked Kehoe to plan his attack…On the morning of May 18, Kehoe murdered his wife by beating her to death, then set his farm buildings afire. As fire fighters arrived at the farm, an explosion devastated the north wing of the school building, killing many schoolchildren. He used a detonator to ignite dynamite and hundreds of pounds of pyrotol which he had secretly planted inside the school over the course of many months. As rescuers started gathering at the school, Kehoe drove up, stopped, and detonated a bomb inside his shrapnel-filled vehicle with his Winchester rifle, killing himself and the school superintendent, and killing and injuring several others. During rescue efforts searchers discovered an additional 500 pounds (230 kg) of unexploded dynamite and pyrotol planted throughout the basement of the school’s south wing. Kehoe apparently had intended to blow up and destroy the whole school.
Shades of Columbine, where the perpetrators had rigged the school with bombs that in their case failed to go off, but which were intended to kill plenty more. This destructive nihilistic impulse seems to be behind many of these killings. We may learn in the present incident that the shooter had some connection to the school, some special beef. Or it may be a random act by a stranger.
Either way—bombs or guns, random or targeted—all are evil acts.
[NOTE: I’ll be curious to learn whether the school had metal detectors, and whether it had a policy of locking its doors or not.]