A pox on the politicians who have allowed American schools to become charnel houses, on the lobbyists who have turned the Second Amendment into a perverted religion, on the leaders who offer “thoughts and prayers” and do absolutely nothing to prevent the next school shooting.
In 2012, when 20 children ages 6 and 7, plus six adults, were gunned down at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, when grizzled state police investigators were brought to tears as they stepped over tiny bodies while chronicling the crime scene, when parents wept at the profound loss of innocent lives, people said to themselves, this is the worst. Something’s got to be done.
Nothing was done. That’s the script: over and over and over, nothing.
And last week, 17 more students were shot and killed at their high school in Parkland, Fla.
How bad is this? More than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools in the United States have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. That figure was compiled by The Washington Post, based on a review of online archives, state and federal enrollment figures and news stories. The Post says it a conservative calculation and does not include dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults that also exposed youths to gunfire.
Now, we hope, the children will lead them — the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland who are seething over the weasel words of America’s leaders — “It’s too soon to talk about this.” “Let’s not politicize this.” “Our hearts go out to the families.”
“Please! We are children. You guys are the adults,” student David Hogg said. “Take action, work together, get something done.”
“Maybe the adults have got used to saying, ‘It is what it is,’” said student Emma Gonzalez. “But if us students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead.”
“This isn’t about the GOP. This isn’t about the Democrats,” said student Cameron Kasky. “This is about us creating a badge of shame for any politicians who are accepting money from the NRA and using us as collateral.”
There’s a sense that these articulate students can force the nation to turn a corner on this plague of school violence.
Vermont felt fairly immune from school violence until last week, when a tip to police foiled a former student’s plan to shoot up Fair Haven High School. All of a sudden, “thoughts and prayers” weren’t enough; the Legislature is actually considering new laws.
Across the nation, though, the National Rifle Association’s vassals in Congress and statehouses are terrified the flow of blood money into their campaign coffers will stop, so they delay, delay, delay, hoping people will move on to the next crisis, and then they’ll blame bad parenting or mental health problems for this epidemic.
“How could this ever happen in this country?” Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked after the shooting. He needs to look in the mirror.
Facts are facts: No other industrialized country has this pervasive problem. No other country has 300 million guns in civilian hands. In countries where slaughters shocked the populace, action was taken. Australia passed restrictions that led to confiscation of 650,000 firearms. After a gunman killed schoolchildren and a teacher in Scotland in 1996, the UK banned handguns; no school shootings have taken place there since. Canada, Germany and New Zealand took similar action, with similar results.
Enough is enough. Things have to change. Kids in schools are trying to learn while they figure out who they are and what they want to be. We need to protect them while they puzzle out those things. Now, though, we simply let them live in fear, waiting for that loud noise in the corridor.