These overlooked aspects of the Nashville shooting should bring us to our knees

There was something extraordinary and something ordinary about the Nashville school shooting on Monday that should throttle our sense of wellbeing and fill us with dread.

Audrey Hale, who Nashville police described as a 28-year-old “biological woman who, on a social media profile, used male pronouns” carried a small arsenal of weapons and ammo into a grade school and opened fire on children and adults, killing three of each.

Given that description of the shooter, national media were quick to describe Monday’s shooting as a black swan event. The New York Times noted that there have been only four female perpetrators of mass shootings going back to 1966, according to The Violence Project’s national data base.

On Monday, that was much of the talk in America. But it was not the most extraordinary or surprising thing that happened Monday in Nashville.

Not at all.

Those bullets weren't just aimed at kids

March 27, 2023: A group prays with a child outside the reunification center at the Woodmont Baptist church after a school shooting, in Nashville, Tenn.
March 27, 2023: A group prays with a child outside the reunification center at the Woodmont Baptist church after a school shooting, in Nashville, Tenn.

Because nothing startles us like an American adult, be they man or woman, looking into the eyes of a child and, without an ounce of remorse or tender feeling, lifting a gun and firing.

With every student killed, Audrey Hale was not just aiming at a child, but at a mother and father, sisters and brothers, grandmothers and grandfathers, cousins and playmates – all of whom also took the bullet and will suffer psychologically for years to come.

How does any person become so thoroughly drained of humanity that they take the lives of children and inflict so much pain on those who loved them? How could anyone take something so precious from a mother?

Such depravity is painful to comprehend. Thus, the most shocking aspect of any rampage shooting is not the gun.

Not the bullet. Not the suspect. But the faint electrical impulse sent from the brain to the trigger finger that finally tells it to squeeze.

From such minute movements come monsters.

But what made the monster?

Shootings tell us our culture is broken

A rampage shooting provokes instant fear, but based on the numbers, they’re the equivalent of a lightning strike.

There are 115,576 schools in the United States, according to the idea-sharing site

Before Monday, there had been at least five mass killings at K-12 schools in the last 10 years – one every two years, according to a database maintained by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University.

It is small comfort, but the odds of this happening at your child’s school are infinitesimal.

Because these shootings are shocking to behold and starting to happen in intervals we sense something is seriously wrong with our culture.

Another view:After Nashville shooting, politicians will fire blanks

Some of you will reflexively say it’s the guns. You’ll get no argument here. We have way too many guns in America in the hands of people who are irresponsible and malicious.

Audrey Hale is a prime example.

Armed with semi-automatic weapons, along with a large supply of ammo, Hale might have killed many more children and school staff had Nashville Police not heroically stopped the carnage.

Guns alone don't explain mass shootings

But guns alone can’t explain this.

We have a culture that is producing enough dead souls who kill without remorse that mass shootings are becoming the outlier that keeps on happening.

Which raises a problem far more common and that eats away at our culture like rust on an engine. With every one of these shootings now, Americans have leaped into political combat before even acknowledging the human loss.

Much of this was birthed by the internet, whose connectivity with every vulgar person and vulgar thought has made the online universe brutish and dehumanizing.

These qualities have carried over to the real world and have made us cruel.

Soon after the Nashville shooting was announced the exhibitionists were already out on social media, seizing the advantage and shaping the news to their political agenda.

Victims get lost in such moments as rivals play their game of “Which Side Wins the Day?”

As long as we exploit pain, we'll never recover

Just as Americans were beginning to comprehend the news, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre blamed Republicans for the Nashville shooting.

“How many more children have to be murdered before Republicans in Congress step up and act to pass the assault weapons ban?”

Guns, drag:Why GOP is betting big on risky politics

Soon after, U.S. Sen. J.D. Vance, R-Ohio, blamed Democrats. “If early reports are accurate that trans shooter targeted a Christian school, there needs to be a lot of soul searching on the extreme left.”

These were more mannered ways of exploiting the tragedy of children and families, but they were exploitation nonetheless. The social media universe, by comparison, was a cesspool.

America has become “the sick man” that we used to see in other flagging nations and cultures, such as Soviet Russia or Chavista Venezuela.

As long as our first impulse after every mass shooting is to ignore the shooter and blame the Americans we don’t like, we will remain bedridden and infirm and will never be well enough to end the violence.

Phil Boas is an editorial columnist with The Arizona Republic. Email him at

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Nashville shooting has overlooked aspects that should worry us