Method of killing drives public’s re­ac­tion

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - Leonard Pitts Jr. The Mi­ami Herald Leonard Pitts is syn­di­cated by Tri­bune Me­dia Ser­vices.

Leonard Pitts com­ments about the lack of na­tional out­age over last week’s school shoot­ing in South Carolina.

Did you hear about Jacob Hall?

Maybe his name rings a bell for you, maybe not. Jacob was the 6-yearold boy who was shot on the play­ground at Townville El­e­men­tary School in South Carolina last Wed­nes­day. An­other boy and a teacher were also struck, but sur­vived.

It’s a bless­ing Jacob was de­nied. Hit in the femoral artery, he suf­fered mas­sive blood loss and spent his last three days in a hospi­tal fight­ing to live. He lost that bat­tle Satur­day.

Po­lice say his as­sailant was an­other boy, 14 years old.

Maybe you heard about it, maybe not. Un­less you live near where it hap­pened, it prob­a­bly didn’t lead your lo­cal TV news, nor would your fa­vorite cable net­work have spent much time on it. Don­ald Trump didn’t tweet about it. Stephen Col­bert of “The Late Show” didn’t men­tion it in his Mon­day night mono­logue.

But last month, when pres­sure cooker bombs ex­ploded in New York City and on the Jer­sey Shore, it led Col­bert’s mono­logue, Trump tweeted about it, and TV news was all over it. No one died, though over two dozen peo­ple were in­jured.

Of course, that was ter­ror­ism. Jacob died in a school­yard shoot­ing.

That’s meant to crit­i­cize nei­ther Col­bert, Trump nor the news me­dia. Nor is it meant to min­i­mize the threat posed by ter­ror­ism. No, it’s meant only to make the fol­low­ing point:

With­out re­ally mean­ing to, we’ve evolved a kind of hi­er­ar­chy of death in which any­thing that’s called ter­ror­ism re­quires wall-to-wall me­dia cov­er­age, re­ac­tions from po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates and somber ac­knowl­edg­ment from late-night talk show hosts. But a 14-year-old shoots a 6-year-old on a play­ground, and it’s just Wed­nes­day.

Per­haps the most frus­trat­ing thing is the hi­er­ar­chy has no ba­sis in re­al­ity. Last year, Poli­tiFact tal­lied the num­ber of Amer­i­cans killed in this coun­try by ter­ror­ism in the 10 pre­ced­ing years. It came to 71. The num­ber of us killed by guns in that same time frame? 301,797.

Even if you al­low that some of those shoot­ings were self-de­fense or sui­cides, the gap be­tween 71 and 301,797 still yawns. Ex­trap­o­lat­ing from num­bers com­piled by the Brady Cam­paign to Pre­vent Gun Vi­o­lence, we can es­ti­mate that well over 25,000 of the dead in that decade are teenagers — and chil­dren.

So yeah, did you hear about Jacob Hall? Or Jus­tice Bur­roughs? Or Ro­driquez Fer­gu­son? Did you hear about Solomon Jor­dan Smith, Savier Jones and Me­lanie Martinez? Did you hear about the 18-month-old in Ge­or­gia who was shot in the head? Po­lice aren’t sure if he did it him­self or if it was his brother, who is 3 years old.

That’s a snap­shot from the week Jacob died, seven av­er­age days in Amer­ica. For the record, Jacob, 6, was the old­est of those vic­tims.

Given the dis­par­ity be­tween the threats rep­re­sented by gun vi­o­lence and ter­ror­ism, it is not ra­tio­nal that the lat­ter comes out on top in our hi­er­ar­chy of death. For some rea­son, some of us are less alarmed by ran­dom vi­o­lence if it doesn’t come from peo­ple with funny names act­ing in ser­vice to what is seen as an off-brand faith. For some rea­son, some of us find it eas­ier to fo­cus on the threat posed to us by per­ceived “oth­ers” than on the threat we pose our­selves.

We have built an Amer­ica where a 14-year-old can get his hands on a weapon of mass de­struc­tion, use it to kill a 6-yearold and we re­spond with a na­tional shrug — an Amer­ica where we’ve nor­mal­ized car­nage and called it “free­dom.”

Did you hear about Jacob Hall? No, he was not a vic­tim of ter­ror­ism.

May that bring you ab­so­lutely no com­fort at all.

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