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Before there was the shooting in Odessa, there were mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. Before Dayton and El Paso, there was Virginia Beach. Before that, Thousand Oaks. Before that, Pittsburgh. And before that, Santa Fe, Parkland, Las Vegas, Orlando (twice), Charleston, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, the Aurora theater, San Bernardino and the Washington Navy Yard.

Before all that there was Columbine, which may have been the first big shocker of a mass shooting that started this modern-day avalanche. Before then, the Luby's-type mass shooting was a rarity even in the United States.

But before even Columbine, Arkansas was dealing with this craziness. For before even those two nuts tore apart their Colorado high school, then themselves, there was Jonesboro.

These days, say the name "Jonesboro" and we think of a growing university town, on the way to being a growing university city. Folks now would never recognize it from its 1980s cityscape. Even the college mascot there is getting antsy to play bigger athletic teams. Most of the arrows are pointing up in Jonesboro, Ark.

But there are still folks who think of the shooting when they hear the name "Jonesboro."

In 1998, a 13-year-old and an 11-year-old stalked their middle school in the Westside school district, and using high-powered hunting rifles pilfered from a grandfather's stash, shot down four fellow students and a teacher, wounding another 10 in the process.

People around the nation sat gape-mouthed reading their newspapers. Before Jonesboro, the shooters at Luby's in 1991 in Killeen, Texas, and that Austin, Texas tower sniper in 1966 were full-grown men. These were kids too young for a beginner's permit.

It's been 21 years. But for those who lost family there, young family, it mustn't seem so long.

Why raffle off an AR-15 there?

This has nothing to do with constitutional rights or the Second Amendment or even guns in general. It just seems impolite. Unseemly. There are those who know the difference between a 12-gauge and a 20-gauge who'd still tell you this idea is, in the least, tasteless.

Who signed off on the plan to raffle off a rifle--of any sort--for a school band fundraiser in this particular school district? Is Jonesboro out of cookie dough?

There are those who'd defend the idea. As you knew there would be. And the papers quoted several of them who offered all kinds of rationalizations.

For example:

• Nobody'd object to a shotgun being raffled off.

So why raffle off an AR-15 instead? That is, the preferred weapon of mass shooters over the last 20 years?

• Other local outfits have raffled off guns.

Other outfits aren't a Jonesboro-area school district, with its history.

• We're aren't giving away a loaded rifle at halftime on school grounds.

Where the rifle is handed off isn't the point. CNN is covering this. Do you think this makes the Jonesboro-area school district look particularly cosmopolitan? Or even sensitive?

• This is another quote from Stephen Simpson's story in Sunday's paper: "Trap [shooting] is a very big deal here. In fact, we are the reigning state champions."

Nobody goes trap shooting with AR-15s.

We get it, somewhat. Jonesboro is Arkansas, and northeast Arkansas at that--surrounded by cotton and corn in the summer, ducks and geese in the winter. Folks there, like folks in most towns in these latitudes, enjoy hunting. They have .22s in their closets for squirrel, 10 gauges for geese, something more powerful for deer. And the Second Amendment isn't just for bumper stickers in these parts.

But it's Jonesboro. Parents are still putting flowers on graves of lost children. At some point, some lady or gentleman could have noted that in this one place, such a raffle might be considered ill-advised. Maybe even crass. And to avoid hurt, could have switched to a popcorn fundraiser instead.

After all, this might be the South, but this is the South.

Mama taught us to be more genteel than this. Or, as she might have put it, polite.

Editorial on 09/10/2019

Print Headline: Unseemly


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