Phyllis Fagell, a counselor at the private K–8 Sheridan School in Washington, D.C., got an email from a colleague on Sunday that’s been on her mind ever since. The email itself didn’t contain any distressing information. It didn’t tell of a sick relative or a friend in need. It was a promotion for a new active-shooter training course at a nearby gym.
What struck Fagell was in large part the email’s timing: The message arrived at the end of a particularly deadly weekend that included two high-profile shootings—and just a few weeks ahead of the new school year. “There’s something wrong,” Fagel said, “when I’m getting an email offering a free course … learning how to pack wounds and apply a tourniquet.”
The United States has witnessed nearly 2,200 mass shootings since the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than 250 of which took place this year alone. And while the rate of firearm-related homicides has dipped since its peak in the 1980s, incidents of gun violence in the U.S. have become more deadly over the decades. The majority of these deaths are from suicides or domestic violence, tragedies that barely register on the national radar. (The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit formed in 2013 that vets and tracks data on such incidents, defines mass shootings as shootings in which at least four people, excluding the perpetrator, are shot or injured in a single spree and the same general location.) The resulting ambient anxiety leads many to fear being in all sorts of public places, from festivals to malls to, of course, schools. Gun violence is now the second-most-common cause of death for people ages 1 through 19.