As the sirens still blared in Parkland, reporters converged from all corners to capture the agony and grief of my classmates. The anguish of my peers was in the spotlight with hourly coverage. We suffered and struggled; the world watched.
This coverage had some staying power, as evidenced by the continued presence of my classmates as spokespeople on the news. Many shootings have happened since, but the Parkland shooting remains distinguished above the reporting of the others. This is because there is a trend in the reporting of school shootings, partly illustrated by the criteria that Parkland survivor David Hogg tweeted out to his followers. He listed his five-point plan for gun control:
While two of the points, CDC research and digitization, are less relevant to media coverage of shootings, the other three — background checks, high-capacity magazines and “assault” weapons — are crucial. The more points a school shooting checks off of the three, the more media coverage the shooting receives. This is why David Hogg and Emma Gonzalez are nearly household names for the politically attuned, while no one can name a single Santa Fe survivor.
Let’s apply the hypothesis.
In the Parkland shooting, the tragedy checked off two of three boxes. The animal who killed 17 people at my school used an AR-15 (an “assault weapon”). He also had prepared to use a high-capacity magazine, though it wouldn’t fit in his bag. That didn’t stop the media from initially reporting that he did. The gun was purchased legally through a background check, not meeting Hogg’s criteria.
With two of three requirements, the media coverage was huge. Wall-to-wall coverage on every channel ran daily for weeks. Outspoken students were verified on Twitter and elevated to near constant television spots spouting the illogical gun control narrative. The Women’s March helped fund these students as they organized a rally held in Washington, D.C., which attracted thousands of participants.
Columbine is another infamous shooting, which claimed the lives of 15 people, including both perpetrators. One shooter used a semi-automatic handgun that could be considered an “assault weapon” — check. Similar to Parkland, the media immediately falsely said that the shooters used “high capacity magazines”— check. The shooters obtained their guns illegally through straw purchasers — check. Three for three. Therefore, Columbine garnered massive media exposure, forever ingraining Columbine in our minds as a horrific tragedy. The tragic 2012 Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown — also regularly cited by politicians of all stripes — checked off two of the key boxes: “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” (the killer stole the guns from his mother).
Let’s contrast those situations and media coverage with Sante Fe. The shooter obtained the weapons from his father — check. But, the shooter used a shotgun and a revolver, not an “assault rifle.” The criminal also didn’t use a high-capacity magazine. This resulted in the media barely capturing the reactions of Santa Fe students, instead turning to March For Our Lives activists for a haphazard push for gun-control legislation, inapplicable to the shooting. Little of the Santa Fe High School shooting was useful politically.
Beyond the checklist, the response by the Santa Fe community was internalized anguish and logical reasoning; students and families of the victims called to arm and better protect schools rather than the David Hogg plan. But that’s not the right narrative.
After Parkland, I saw how the media empire rallied to amplify the voices of my peers. CNN deposed a sitting U.S. senator before an angry mob. The streets surrounding my school were cemented with news vans and hundreds of reporters for weeks on end. Volunteers descended in droves to Parkland assisting in the creation of the March For Our Lives movement. Activists appeared hourly on almost all the most watched broadcasts. When one searches for “David Hogg” on Google, there are around 25.1 million results; a search for “Santa Fe Shooting” produces 29.5 million results. One survivor nearly eclipses an entire tragedy. Name a single Santa Fe survivor. You can’t. Why? It doesn’t align closely enough to the progressive gun control narrative.