The tragedy of this latest school shooting, Friday morning at the Marysville-Pilchuk school, is as they all have been, a sad and appalling loss of human lives, and especially of human lives with so much potential ahead.
And yet one different kind of lesson seems to come out of this new shooting, and it is this: Don't lump them all together and imagine that all, together, stand explained.
We've had enough school shootings that a standard profile has developed. An outsider kid, a trenchcoat-wrapped loner with few friends at school and a fascination with guns and other weaponry, coupled with a super-heroic (or anti-heroic) complex, roars into the school like a would-be Terminator and opens fire with his automatic (or semi-automatic) weapon on whoever happens to be around, killing and wounding as many as possible. The mass murder is the point; the identity of the victims doesn't matter.
Little of that explains this case. The student here, according to numerous reports (including those from families of the victims), was Jaylen Fryberg, a freshman football player, voted class “prince,” sometimes a class comic, and popular with both other students and adults. He was pegged by adults as a prospective community leader.
His weapon was not an automatic or even a rifle, but apparently a small handgun. He did not fire randomly, and he did not fire at anyone in authority. Walking into the school cafeteria, he took aim at specific people, people he knew – the two boys he shot were cousins of his – ad his motive may have been very specifically personal – one of the girls shot had apparently angered him for declining to go on a date.
None of this lessens the tragedy or the loss, or the shock in the community.
But there is this: It seems a little closer than some of the other shootings to being at least somehow explicable, a little less random.
And maybe too there's this: Let's not assume that all these shootings are all the same. They are all distinctive and consequently none have been entiurely predictable.
Maybe that's just a little more true in this case.