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After MSU campus shooting, how do I explain to my son?

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In seven hours, I have to tell my son.

He went to bed at 9 p.m., because he’s 12 and it’s a school night, before I saw the news alerts rolling in: A shooting on Michigan State University’s campus. The shooter still on the loose. One person, reportedly, slain; five at Sparrow Hospital. It’s 11:30 p.m., and I’m watching the news. The dead now number three, and there’s a blurry picture of the shooter on my screen. I hope at least they catch the guy before my son wakes up. At least then I can say it’s over.

I can’t not tell him, not anymore. He has a phone. He has a laptop, required for school. He has friends with phones and laptops and older siblings. I had to tell him about Oxford, in November of 2021; he listened, quietly — he is not, by nature, quiet — and asked: “Are you sending me to school tomorrow?”

Police stand outside the MSU Union along Grand River Avenue on Monday, Feb. 13, 2023, on the Michigan State University campus in East Lansing.

Will lawmakers act?

His first active shooter drill was kindergarten. I didn’t know. They didn’t have active shooter drills when I was his age. There had been a substitute teacher, clearly as blindsided by the drill as any of her young charges. Administrators used a code name to communicate the actions of the fictional shooter. It made the drill seem real. He came home that day earnestly explaining to me that his class had to hide in the bathroom, because a bad guy had been in the school.

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