Guns. It's who we are now.

Students are brought out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the shooting. Is this our new reality? (Getty Images 2018)
Students are brought out of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High after the shooting. Is this our new reality? (Getty Images 2018)
Published May 10, 2019

A letter to the editor in my Tampa Bay Times the other day said exactly what I was thinking:

Another deadly shooting at a school and we barely noticed.

It could have been Parkland or Newtown. This time it was a town called Highlands Ranch in Colorado where two teenagers with guns in their hands and God only knows what in their heads walked in and opened fire.

Probably it was the fact that only one student was killed that kept the story off the front page that day.

After all, we've witnessed the likes of 14 teenagers slain in a high school not far from here. We've seen 20 elementary school kids dead for no reason that will ever make sense. And even after the horror of that, not much changed.

Only one dead. As if one kid who was supposed to come home from school and didn't isn't enough.

The boy who was murdered — 18-year-old Kendrick Castillo, who was in the robotics club and liked to tinker with things — reportedly jumped up from his desk and charged the two gunmen. This gave other students time to get under desks and make a run for it. Probably, it saved lives. This made him a slain hero. He should have just been a kid in school.

Another student and an armed security guard also were credited with acts of bravery that kept this from being far worse. But, seriously, is this something teenagers should have to worry about, part of their daily reality? It was something to consider before we relegated the story to the long list of Bad Things That Just Happen.

Except these wouldn't have happened without guns in the hands of madmen.

This is who we are now, increasingly numb to the faces smiling in school pictures posted alongside body counts. We are resigned because these stories are starting to seem as inevitable as hurricanes.

In Florida, it is now the law that teachers can pack guns, which is one sobering state of affairs and something our local counties have thankfully opposed.

But even sensible people like Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri see this turn of events not as utter insanity but a viable option in the current reality.

In fact, there are people who think there is no place a gun should not be, that you let anyone who wants to be armed be armed and, you know, see how it goes. (Often, not well.) We've come to assume — no, to expect — guns are everywhere.

Just in the last two weeks, a deputy's weapon went off in a Wesley Chapel school cafeteria, where luckily no one was hurt.

A week ago at a Land O' Lakes Publix, a woman's purse fell from the checkout counter and the gun inside went off, shooting her husband in the leg. Sounds like a bad joke, except it could have been tragic.

On Wednesday, a man working on a roof in Riverview was shot dead when a fellow worker's gun discharged when, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, he slipped on some construction debris while getting out of his truck.

Guns and more guns.

The stories keep coming of armed, angry teenagers, of men who burst into churches or night clubs with weapons they should not have. And it appears no amount of headlines or number of dead will convince us to ban automatic weapons no one needs or to implement serious, meaningful control. Our answer to guns is more guns.

It is the moment in which we find ourselves, our reality, who we are.

Contact Sue Carlton at