By the time this column is printed and published, the shooting that took place in Parkland, Florida, will be old news. Based off the rate of school shootings in America, there will probably be another one between when I write this and when it’s published.
Fifteen students and two faculty member woke up last Wednesday, Feb. 14, and headed off for a routine day of learning at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, never to return home. 17 Americans were gunned down in a senseless act of violence that could have been prevented.
Columbine should’ve been the wakeup call. It wasn’t. Virginia Tech should’ve been the wakeup call. It wasn’t. Sandy Hook should’ve been the last straw, but here we are.
Fact: As of Feb. 16, there have been 18 school shootings in the United States since Jan. 1 of this year. In the interest of full disclosure, only seven of those shootings were intentional and took place during normal school hours, according to the Washington Post. Seven shootings on school grounds in a month-and-a-half is still far too many.
In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, several noteworthy politicians tweeted support out to the victims and their families. President Donald Trump tweeted, “My prayers and condolences to the families of the terrible Florida shooting. No child, teacher or anyone else should ever feel unsafe in an American school.”
Fact: Thoughts and prayers aren’t fixing this. Trump and the rest of the GOP can pray all they want, but it isn’t going to change the fact that the key to solving America’s mass shooting crisis is gun control. Prayers and condolences from politicians mean absolutely nothing if they fail to use their power as elected officials to help ensure the safety of the American people.
Many Republicans and Fox News commentators were quick to pull the ‘mental health card’ in wake of Wednesday’s attack.
“In a free society, you can’t stop bad people who are intent on killing,” political pundit Joe Walsh tweeted. “What you can do is protect yourself. And those around you. With a gun. Protect our children. Put armed adults in our schools.”
If you have a similar mindset as Walsh, please understand this: the United States is the only country on Earth where this happens. The self-proclaimed “Greatest Country in the World” does not lead the pack in education, health or economic prosperity. We don’t even lead the Winter Olympics’ medal count.
The United States does lead the world in mass shootings. And it’s not close. So before you go on a tirade and say that this is not a gun control issue, but a mental health issue, ask yourself, “Is the United States the only country on the planet whose citizens suffer from mental health issues?” The answer is no. But we are the only developed country on Earth where an 18-year-old kid can buy an AR-15 with no questions asked. The status quo is unacceptable.
This problem is fixable. No other country on Earth allows this to happen. In the coming weeks, there will be protests and rallies, and there will be bills introduced to congress regarding gun control. They will not pass, and that’s because the NRA has a bigger say in our government than we do.
But next time - and there will be a next time - remember who’s fault it is. This isn’t a mental health problem. We don’t need to arm our teachers. We don’t need security guards in every school in America.
This epidemic of mass slaughter taking place in America is not a product of coincidence, it is not because of mental health issues, not because of bullying, violent movies or video games. Mass shootings in America are a direct product of our own inaction.
We need a congressional body with a more vested interest in the safety of the American people than their own political agenda or re-election campaign. We need politicians that will accept responsibility for their lack of action and make change. I’m not saying all guns need to be banned - to do so would be absurd - but as a nation, we need to take a long look at ourselves and ask why we aren’t doing more to protect our children.
We need change. How many more innocent kids have to die at school before American lawmakers give a shit? All the thoughts and prayers in the world aren’t going to change anything. God isn’t fixing this, we’re going to have to do it ourselves.