I wrote 50 comments for the Weekend Voices column. My first was in response to the mass shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas School in Parkland, Florida. Fifty months later, and I realize that I should have ended this article with “to be continued.”
The surviving students raised awareness to such a degree that, although at the federal level, an ineffectual stalled Congress did nothing, it actually drove progress in many states through their March for Our Lives campaign which led protests in Washington and across the country. March for Our Lives is holding a rally again on June 11 and I encourage anyone who wants something done to stop the needless slaughter of innocent people, children and the elderly, to do something positive so that change happens.
The recent mass shooting at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, immediately after experiencing the disbelief of the too-close-to-home shooting at the Buffalo Tops store, brought this issue back to the fore. Again, arguments ensue about what the problem is and what will fix it.
Arguing about it is futile and falls into the hands of politicians. Depending on the political party you follow and the media you listen to, you hear very different sides of the story. It will never get us anywhere.
There are many contributing factors that are involved and they all need to be addressed, not one will fix it, but each will help. Some are easier to fix than others, some have a lot more to do with it than others, but let’s at least agree to do something about it. This was Senator Chris Murphy’s plea to the Senate after Uvalde. Murphy’s Connecticut state was the site of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 27 people dead, the majority of whom were first graders.
Why are these gunmen taking the lives of innocent children? Will this cause the maximum pain and suffering for other parents because their own parents failed them?
Uvalde’s shooter began his rampage by shooting his grandmother. The Newtown, Connecticut shooter shot and killed his mother before attacking the school. Less than 10% of mass shootings are committed by mentally ill people, but this is a self-perpetuating problem as the ever-increasing number of survivors will lead to ever-increasing psychological effects – PTSD, as well as our veterans endure that sometimes exceeds them. These survivors were also in a war zone.
Before the popularity of AR15-style weapons, an individual in crisis would pick up a pistol or shotgun and point it at the cause of their anger, then usually turn the gun on themselves. Still tragic, but not involving the mass murder of innocent people who had nothing to do with them. That a person determined to kill can use other weapons is certainly true, but it may take several lives, not dozens.
Yes, we need to focus more on mental health issues, more awareness on how to recognize symptoms and access to crisis intervention, more transparency and regulation of dark places in social media who spread these horrible ideas in the heads of young men who at this age are faced with raging hormones and mental anxiety such as it is; because a pattern has developed with white gunmen under the age of 21. But above all, we must keep weapons of mass death out of their reach.
The Second Amendment has been cited ad nauseam as the reason we must allow school children and the elderly who shop or go to church to be sacrificed on a regular basis. Over the recent Memorial Day weekend, 16 mass shootings (defined as a firearm-related incident where 4 or more people are simultaneously killed or injured) were recorded across the country.
In the words of Nixon-appointed Chief Justice Warren Burger: “The gun lobby’s interpretation of the Second Amendment is one of the greatest frauds, I repeat fraud, against the American people by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my life.” He also publicly stated, “The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an absolute right to any kind of weapon he desires.”
There is no reason why civilians should be allowed to carry military grade weapons. The saying “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun” is only true if the sides are evenly matched. An adrenaline-fuelled 18-year-old with a semi-automatic and hundreds of rounds protected by bulletproof vests overtook 19 police officers, trained in this type of emergency but aware that charging the shooter would mean certain death. Tops’ security guard gave his life when he tried to stop this shooter with a pistol against a bulletproof vest, completely disproving this theory.
You can’t arm teachers and expect them to be able to do what all those police couldn’t do. The Uvalde school guard walked right past the shooter, mistaking a teacher for the attacker. What if that teacher had a gun? He allegedly shot the professor.
I believe the best way to stop these tragedies is for our legislators to compromise and pass protective laws at the federal level. New York has some good laws, but state laws don’t work if the neighboring state doesn’t follow the same laws. Texas is a free-for-all Wild West when it comes to guns.
When other countries had a mass casualty event, they passed regulations and solved the problem.
Their people are still governed democratically and are happier and more secure than Americans. If you know MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell, he ends his show with “the last word.” I will give him the last word: “American mass murderers are the best-equipped mass murderers in the world.”
Susan Bigler is a resident of Sheridan. Send your comments to Editorial@observertoday.com