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Yesterday’s tragic violence at a high school in Parkland, Florida – in which 17 innocent civilians were gunned down and murdered at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School – marked the event as the 18th school shooting this year, and we are only in the month of February.
Three of the past ten worst mass shootings in U.S. history have occurred over the past 5 months, with this past Fall’s Las Vegas massacre topping the charts as the country’s worst ever.
We are caught in a rapidly quickening, spreading epidemic of violence, and our cultural, mental and political sensibilities are growing more and more numb with each horrific instance. We live in a country where the term “school shooting” can be quantified from best to worst, as it happens so often that statistics are bountiful (to be clear, the Parkland shooting was the worst n Florida’s history).
“The Broward Sheriff’s Office says Nikolas Cruz, 19, walked the halls of the high school wielding an AR-15 and multiple magazines. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson told reporters that Cruz pulled a fire alarm and then, wearing a gas mask, began tossing smoke bombs and shooting people as they ran through the haze.” (via Politico)
I personally have written at length on my feelings regarding gun violence, “gun sense” and Congress’ inability and cowardly unwillingness to act. But all the writing, preaching, screaming across the internet, airwaves and rally grounds are not enough. Legislators will only be held accountable for their prioritization of their own donor-funding over the lives of children – children – when the American public unambiguously resolves to vote out any and all politicos still latched to the NRA teet.
Over the past half-decade, Congress has accomplished zero public policy to address mass shootings. Instead – every time one of these horrors befall the people of this country – we are treated with the “thoughts and prayers” brigade across the Republican-led Congress, quickly followed by the typical “now is not the time to talk politics.” And every time, these very same legislators are exposed as having dubious ties to the NRA’s financial web.
After the horrific Newtown shooting in late 2012, the U.S. Senate blocked a measure to require background checks for gun purchases, despite overwhelming public support for the measure. Why? Because Republican legislators could not “stand up” to the gun lobby, namely the NRA. This past fall, in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shootings, Congress again failed to act on a bill to ban bump stocks (devices made to make rifles fire more rapidly).
“The only thing less surprising than another episode of mass violence has been Washington’s lack of courage to do, well, anything,” writes MSNBC’s Chuck Todd, Mike Murray and Carrie Dann. “And until a politician loses a race because they are considered to be too pro-gun, that won’t change.”
In a CNN interview, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg perfectly expressed his own outrage at Washington for allowing students like himself to be put in harm’s way time and time again for the sake of protecting the gun lobby.
“My sister, she’s a freshman, and she had two of her best friends die,” Hogg said. “That’s not acceptable. That is something that we should not let happen in this country, especially when we’re going to school.”
He then said that American lawmakers deserve blame for simply offering their “thoughts and prayers” after every school massacre without taking any action.
“The fact that this is the eighteenth school shooting, and this is only February, is a testament to how far this country has come,” he said. “We need to dig out of this hole… There’s something seriously wrong here. And some of our policymakers, they need to look in the mirror and take some action. Because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die.”
Similarly, teacher Melissa Falkowski – who miraculously was able to hide 19 students during the school massacre – echoed Hogg’s views on lawmakers’ reluctance to act.
“I’ve seen this on TV, we all have,” Falkowski said. “This shooting after shooting and there’s always the same thing is said, ‘It’s not the time to talk about gun control, it’s not the time. It’s time to pray for the families.’”
“And I just think that hasn’t gotten us anywhere,” she continued, choking up. “I mean, here we are and we’re like the latest statistic on school violence. And as a society, as Americans, we’re failing our children. And we’re not keeping them safe. And Congress is failing us and the government is failing us.”
Falkowski concluded: “Something has to be done.”
But as Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr pointed out, “nothing has been done.”
“It doesn’t seem to matter our government that children are being shot to death day after day in schools,” he said about the Parkland massacre. “It doesn’t matter that people are being shot at a concert, at a movie theater. It’s not enough, apparently, to move our leadership, our government, the people running our country, to actually do anything.”
“That’s demoralizing,” he continued. “But we can do something about it. We can vote people in who actually have the courage to protect people’s lives, and not just bow down to the NRA because they have financed their campaign for them. So hopefully we’ll find enough people, first of all to vote good people in, but hopefully we can find enough people with courage to actually help our citizens feel safe and focus on the real safety issues. Not building some stupid wall for billions of dollars that has nothing to do with our safety, but actually protecting us from what truly is dangerous, which is maniacs with semi-automatic weapons just slaughtering our children. It’s disgusting.”
Sadly, what will undoubtedly transpire over the coming weeks and months will offer no relief to the victims and their families, nor will it give solace to the young survivors who will live with this event and others like it replaying in the recesses of their minds for the rest of their lives. All the “thoughts and prayers” will not give peace of mind to the countless families across the country who will continue to fear the worst each and every day that their government does nothing to protect them, their kids, their futures.
As we see these stories, read these words, feel these tears, we are perpetually reminded that the funeral services for students, teachers, loved ones – again and again – are the real testament to the gun lobby’s view of what a “free America” really looks like.Click here for reuse options!
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