By Beverly George
The news coming out of Parkland, Florida on February 14, 2018 was initially shocking to me, but shortly thereafter I just felt completely numb. This was the eighteenth shooting since January 1, 2018. That’s two or three per week.
I remembered back to the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colorado, April 20, 1999, when fifteen were killed (twelve students, one teacher and the two student shooters who committed suicide) and twenty-one wounded. For me, that’s when my radar for these tragic events was turned on, probably because I was a teacher in a Naperville High School with a similar school profile to Columbine’s.
So why did I feel literally emotionally leaden on Wednesday? I did not even want to listen to the news reports because I knew I would hear this phrase repeated over and over: “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.”
‘Our thoughts and prayers are with you.’
Sorry, but after so many shootings since Columbine, these are hollow, empty words. We cannot seem to rise up and DO something about the assault military weapons available to the general public!
- We cannot require background checks on the sale of guns.
- We cannot use the No Fly List as a basis to stop a gun sale.
- We cannot ban bump stocks that ratchet up ordinary guns to perform like machine guns.
- We cannot ban the sale of military assault weapons like the AR-15.
- We cannot allow the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to collect and study the crime data to study gun violence as a public health issue.
- We cannot ban the sale of ammunition clips that deliver more than ten rounds.
- On the other hand, in sympathy with the gun owners, legislators do try to pass a law to require silencers on guns because the constant noise damages the shooter’s hearing. (Imagine the death tolls if the shooter in Parkland or Las Vegas had had silencers on their weapons.)
- And we need to oppose federal mandates for Concealed Carry Reciprocity, which would allow federal legislation to interfere with states’ rights and dictate to each state who can carry concealed weapons within their own state, according to the website for Everytown for Gun Safety.
There are some voices that argue it’s too late to change the laws because there are assault weapons already in circulation en masse, and if someone wants to kill, they will find a way, and we can’t ever eliminate all violence anyway.
To them, my friend Dr. Tatiana Prowell, a leading oncologist at Johns Hopkins, has the most eloquent response, on her Facebook page.
“If you think there won’t be one simple solution that fixes everything, you are totally correct. But guess what? We are probably never going to eliminate all cancer either, and there’s not ever going to be one simple solution to cancer either, and a whole bunch of my friends and I keep going to work and developing new medicines and designing clinical trials and treating your loved ones, and you all seem to think that makes sense.
Just because it will be hard doesn’t mean we stop trying. Just because we can’t save every life doesn’t mean we can’t save many.”
The American public, including many National Rifle Association (NRA) members, strongly favor better gun control laws. We don’t have to change the 2nd Amendment but we do need to put reasonable limitations on it in the form of gun legislation and extend the conversation to public health.
And yes, I believe it would make a difference because it’s made a difference in Australia and other western countries that allow gun ownership. Other countries don’t even come close to the awful statistics the U.S. holds for gun deaths.
The topic of assault weapons and common-sense gun laws will never come up as long as the NRA keeps funneling rivers of cash into the campaigns of Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Richard Burr, and so many other legislators, including a few Democrats, who are elected and then work to protect the interests of their major donors, not their constituents.
‘President Donald Trump went to Parkland to address the grieving families and used mental health treatment as his outreach. This was his proposal to try to prevent future horrific events in schools. His carefully scripted speech did not include a word about gun control.’
President Donald Trump went to Parkland to address the grieving families and used mental health treatment as his outreach. This was his proposal to try to prevent future horrific events in schools. His carefully scripted speech did not include a word about gun control.
While the argument for better mental health treatment is sound, it’s woefully incomplete. Listening to the PBS News Hour this evening, one expert opined that if Nikolas Cruz had not been able to get into the school, if the building had been closed, he likely would have tried his assault at a public mall or another site frequented by the students. So improving mental health services in schools wouldn’t necessarily head off a shooting in a mall. The shooter in Las Vegas last year was not a high school or college student. But he had an arsenal of rapid-fire weapons in his hotel room and shot at a concert crowd like fish in a barrel. So why does he or any private citizen need an arsenal of assault weapons and a stockpile of ammunition? Why should any American have the right to own an arsenal of that magnitude? I would argue this type of weapon gluttony has absolutely nothing to do with the 2nd Amendment.
Americans own 48% of all privately owned guns in the world. That was the closing statistic from the PBS News Hour last Thursday evening.
It’s been less than a week since the tragedy in Parkland, but the voices of reason are eloquent, loud, and clear, and they’re coming from the students who will have to live with this memory for the rest of their lives. The students are calling for sensible changes to gun laws, and they’re threatening their elected officials with removal from office if their legislative inertia continues.
The students will use the only weapon they have—the ballot box in November.
Enough is enough.
Most Americans want change. I hope we continue our directed grief and outrage to effect the long-overdue changes for greater security in our communities.
ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.
To see how your senator or representative voted on proposed gun safety legislation, click here.