The scene is familiar. Too familiar. Frantic parents, kids running hands up from school buildings, law enforcement clearing classrooms where kids were supposed to feel safe.
Yesterday, time froze for hours while we all watched a mass shooting unfold yet again.
My mind immediately snaps back to being 13 years old on April 20th, 1999. Home from school in the afternoon, sitting on the floor of my parents living room with my best friend. We were frozen in terror then too. Frozen in that moment of utter heartbreak.
The scene then was the same. Even then, the scene was familiar. I had seen it a year prior on March 24, 1998 in a small town about an hour away. I saw it 6 months before that, on October 1st, 1997 in another small town. Of course, it was terrible. Unimaginable. But, it kept happening. And it keeps happening 20 years later.
Angry and Tired
We pay attention for a few days, we bury our dead, we hold moments of silence. As if in our moments of reflection, expectations will change. And then, like clockwork, the bodies pile up as a result of our inaction.
I, like so many other mothers who were school age during the Columbine era, am tired. Tired of the excuses. Tired of the carnage. I, like so many others who watched bullets shatter classroom windows decade after decade, am angry. Angry at society. Angry at the gun lobby. Angry at feckless lawmakers. Angry at our inaction.
My generation watches mass shooting after mass shooting unfold on our growing array of devices. We hear the profile. We hear the casualty count. We watch interviews of shaken victims. We say things like “thoughts and prayers.” And yet, nothing changes.
Nothing changed when 20 kindergartners were murdered alongside 6 of their teachers at Sandy Hook. Nothing changed when 49 people were killed inside a nightclub in Orlando. Nothing changed when 58 people died attending a concert on the Vegas strip- the largest mass shooting in US history.
No other country in the world has gun violence at the same rate. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, Americans are 25 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than people in other developed countries. Every day, gun violence kills 96 Americans. So why does nothing change?
Dollars Over Human Life
As a parent, I don’t understand that we’ve accepted our new normal of shielding our kids from these violent scenes replaying over and over. How can we as human beings watch live shots of people being murdered and steel ourselves to inaction?
The reason for our inaction is simple. It’s simple because it comes down to the value of dollars over human life.
According to Politifact, the National Rifle Association has donated $203 million to political activities since 1998. The majority of Americans support common sense gun legislation, but the minority is well funded and well organized. Lawmakers are beholden to the gun lobby via campaign donations and powerful lobbying tactics. There is a chokehold on common sense regarding gun control.
There are arguments upon arguments after every mass shooting. We know them so well. We discuss mental health and parental involvement and bullying. Things like “people kill people, guns don’t kill people” are an accepted piece of our lexicon. A uniquely American lexicon where violence is commonplace.
We pay attention for a few days, we bury our dead, we hold moments of silence. As if in our moments of reflection, expectations will change. And then, like clockwork, the bodies pile up as a result of our inaction. Another mass shooting gets logged in the books.
Steeled to Action
Watching CNN yesterday in the hours following the shooting I was moved by Phillip Mudd, a CNN contributor and former FBI agent. He said simply, “A child of God is dead. Cannot we acknowledge in this country that we can’t — we cannot accept this.” It bowled me over. It’s the truest statement I think I have ever heard following one of these atrocities.
I refuse to accept that this is a zero sum game.
We act as if gun safety is two sides of some cursed coin. As if the 2nd Amendment was written to give us eternal damnation. Rights of a private citizen versus the safety of another. We toss out platitudes as if the parents of a dead child cares.
If as a society we can watch these bloody scenes unfold and not come away steeled to action, what hope is there? If we can recognize a child of God is dead and say we couldn’t have stopped it, what’s the point? I refuse to accept continued mass shootings as my children’s reality. I refuse to accept that this is a zero sum game.
Resources to act now:
http://everytown.org Everytown is a movement of Americans working together to end gun violence and build safer communities. Gun violence touches every town in America. For too long, change has been thwarted by the Washington gun lobby and by leaders who refuse to take common-sense steps that will save lives.
http://www.bradycampaign.org Brady campaign was founded by Jim Brady and his wife Sarah after the assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan in which Brady, Reagan’s press secretary, was shot. The mission of the Brady organization and its Million Mom March is to create a safer America by cutting gun deaths in half by 2025.
https://www.csgv.org Founded in 1974 The Campaign to Stop Gun Violence believes that all Americans have a right to live in communities free from gun violence. We pursue this goal through policy development, strategic engagement, and effective advocacy.
http://sandyhookpromise.org Founded by parents of Sandy Hook Elementary shooting victims, The Sandy Hook Promise’s goal is to prevent gun-related deaths due to crime, suicide and accidental discharge so that no other parent experiences the senseless, horrific loss of their child.