More than 311, 000… that’s how many students have experienced gun violence at school since the Columbine High massacre in 1999. “While school shootings remain rare, there were more in 2021 — 42 — than in any year since at least 1999. So far this year, there have been at least 24 acts of gun violence on K-12 campuses during the school day” [washpost.com].
So we start the sad dance all over again. Politicians who claim to be pro-life [who would take away a woman’s right to choose how to deal with her pregnancy] spout the same sanctimonious spiel to all who will listen even as they fight gun control legislation and take millions from the NRA. And nothing changes… We are growing numb as well as impotent.
David Frum points out: “Every other democracy makes some considerable effort to keep guns away from dangerous people, and dangerous people away from guns. For many years—and especially since the massacre at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook Elementary School almost a decade ago—the United States has put more and more guns into more and more hands: 120 guns per 100 people in this country” [atlantic.com]. He reminds us that the most numerous gun sales in our country’s history occurred during the pandemic, “almost 20 million guns sold in 2020; another 18.5 million sold in 2021” followed by a surge of gun violence [Ibid.]. We are the “only country with more civilian-owned firearms than people “ [forbes.com].
The conservative podcaster Allie Beth Stuckey points out that the one common factor in these school shootings is that they are all committed by young males. She argues that we “are doing absolutely everything wrong when it comes to promoting healthy masculinity, purpose, & goodness for these boys and men” [Ibid.]. The gunman who killed 19 students and 2 teachers in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24 had dropped out of school after being bullied for a speech impediment. He had a difficult home life and unsatisfying job, and his behavior and social media posts offered warning signs. Yet no one pursued those signs, and he shot his grandmother in the face before walking into a school, wearing body armor, and randomly shooting victims. We may not understand, but we must act.
We could know more and better understand situations like these if it weren’t for the 1996 Dickey Amendment that forbade the CDC from using its funding to study gun violence. In 2019 the law was clarified, and research resumed the following year, but now we’re running to catch up [washpost.com 2].
And I fear, as do so many, that once again nothing will be done. Brian Broome argues that nothing will change, that this will be yet another tragedy that will prompt empty speeches and vigils but no action on gun control. “The gun is a holy relic in America. A sacred talisman. More important than life itself [washpost.com3]. We live in a country that loves its guns more than its children. Isn’t that backwards?
Some in the Senate have tried. After 32 people died and many more were injured in the August 2019 El Paso and Dayton shootings, Senator Chris Murphy and others were negotiating with then Attorney General Bill Barr when the Trump/Zelensky call derailed that effort [washpost.com4]. Even the Manchin-Toomey bill, so diluted to appease the NRA that some called it “toothless” couldn’t pass the 60-vote threshold [Ibid.]. Manchin tried again after the May 2022 massacre at a Buffalo, New York, grocery store. Again, no legislation passed.
Those who argue for the sanctity of the Second Amendment to the Constitution would distort its meaning and context. “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” That right did not include private ownership of cannons, and assault rifles didn’t even exist. We require training and licenses to drive a car but not to own a gun.
Our elected officials are failing our nation. “Nearly 60% of registered voters think it’s at least somewhat important for lawmakers to pass stricter gun laws, a new Morning Consult/Politico poll found after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York—even before another shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas on Tuesday further ramped up calls for Congress to pass gun control legislation” [forbes.com]. Yet once again, nothing changes.
What can we do? Each of us must find out the position of our elected officials on gun controls. Then we need to work to vote for candidates who will support red flags and background checks and mental health efforts. We must vote out the hypocrites who offer sympathy as they block change. Congress and Governors and the President haven’t done it. It’s up to all of us.