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Kentucky school shooting deaths shock small town

Area pastor responds to eleventh U.S. school shooting in first 23 days of 2018

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — The shooting deaths of two high school students in the small western Kentucky town of Benton have left residents and surrounding communities in shock. Teachers, parents, faith and government leaders have spent the past few days trying to determine the cause as well as solutions to the violence.

“I felt horror and astonishment at first. I think everyone believes that these things are not going to happen in their own communities, but I think, at this point in history, we should know better than to feel that way,” said the Rev. Dr. Renee Meyer, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Murray, Kentucky, near Benton. “It’s frustrating and I try to analyze what has brought us to this point in history. I think about a variety of things that play into it. But I can’t pinpoint any one reason. I think there are multiple factors combined.”

Kentucky State Police say a 15-year-old student opened fire on classmates at Marshall County High School on Tuesday, killing two students and wounding at least a dozen more. The suspect was arrested and faces murder and attempted murder charges.

“My daughter is grown and is expecting a child. I think about what the future is going to look like for my grandchild down the line,” Meyer said.  “What can we do as a community to try and prevent these occurrences?”

Investigators are still working to determine what drove the teenager to shoot the students. Authorities say it was the 11th school shooting in the U.S. so far this new year.

Meyer says some students in Murray believe the suspect may have been bullied and she feels social media could play a role in the growing number of school shootings.

“It seems we are creating a generation of folks that are challenged socially. They don’t know how to establish community,” she said. “They also, because of social media outlets, are more aggressive at bullying.”

Meyer says she’s still contemplating how she will address the shooting at services on Sunday. She’s hoping churches in the area will become more socially active, but she’s not sure what that looks like yet.

“There’s got to be a way to offer community, compassion and empathy and be better at catching these things,” said Meyer. “But if Sandy Hook didn’t bring us to the brink of having solid gun control legislation, I don’t think anything will.”

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