The United States leads all advanced countries with our number of guns and mass shootings in schools. Every day dozens of Americans are killed by guns. Over 32,000 deaths occur every year; 40 percent homicides and 60 percent suicides. A gun is the main weapon. Local newspapers and TV report local people who died as a part of their daily coverage. Yet, when a shooting occurs in one of our schools, horror and shock engulfs the entire nation. Columbine High School in Colorado was first when two seniors gunned down 12 students and one teacher in a carefully planned attack. That was 1999. It is now 2018 and the high school in Parkland, Florida was where a 19 year old gunman killed seventeen and wounded fourteen students and adults with an AR-15 assault rifle. He carried multiple rounds of ammunition.
After each mass shooting occurred, there have been renewed attempts to tighten gun control laws in the individual states and the federal government. The most effective federal law ever passed was the Ban on Assault Weapons passed in 1994 during the Bill Clinton Democratic administration. It had a ten year duration, but failed revewal after 2004. Over the ten years it had been in effect, the rate of deaths by those weapons fell across the country. That was also the time that the National Rifle Association, N.R.A., built its power over members of Congress, They set up their report card for each member’s voting record, and made significant dollar contributions to their two year renewal campaigns.
After the Newtown, Connecticut massacre of twenty first-grade children and their teachers on December 12, 2012, the state was able to pass a ban on assault weapons. New York, a neighboring state also passed an assault ban. At present, California, four other states and the District of Columbia have also passed assault weapons bans. The laws include magazines that shoot multiple rounds in seconds. Newtown had an impact on the entire country. Parents and legislators organized and fought long and hard battles against the N.R.A. In Congress Senators Manchin and Toomey led the attempt to pass a law fo background checks, closing loop holes at gun shows and on the internet. The law had the support of 85 percent of the American public. The N.R.A. became active in the halls of Congress and the failed. to pass. On June 20, 2016, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to the Connecticut and New York laws banning assault weapons. It was a welcome victory for gun control advocates.
After a mass shooting, gun sales often increase, especially for semi-automatic rifles. Those people most concerned that the government will pass restrictive laws appear to be anxious to stock up before a ban occurs. The Second Amendment credo of the N.R.A. increases in volume and intensity among militia members in the NorthWest. They are ever anxious that the helicopters will be landing to take away their guns. Conspiracy theories rise and fall over the years, documented by the Southern Poverty Law Center, the best source for information on Hate Groups in the United States.
After shootings in the nation’s schools, presidents have spoken to the country, to assuage grief and bring comfort to the families who have lost their children. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama each addressed the entire nation. Donald Trump did speak to the country, emphasizing the mental health issue. He made no mention of guns. It is relevant to note that earlier in his administration, Trump approved the removal of an Obama regulation that would prevent people with mental disabilities from buying guns. When he was asked by critics about the need for tighter restrictions on guns, he replied by urging Americans to report behavior of “mentally disturbed people” to the authorities. His position is reflected in the statements by Paul Ryan, Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives. When asked by reporters whether it was time for more control of assault rifles, he said we need more facts before rushing ahead. In earlier years, after the Orlando Massacre, with 49 dead and 43 injured, Speaker Ryan called sit-ins in the House by Democrats led by Civil Rights icon, John Lewis “a publicity stunt”.
Parkland High School had prepared their teachers and students for possible fires or violence with drills that would protect them in either case. Thus, when the killer set off the fire alarm, they began to leave the building in order. They then returned to classrooms to take refuge in closets with their teachers until an all clear sounded. Tragically, the killer entered the building and began shooting.
After every mass shooting, the N.R.A. advocates placing armed guards in every school in the country. School districts have not chosen to take that path to safety. The N.R.A. has a mantra they promote whenever possible, “It takes a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with a gun.” That slogan is aimed at increasing gun sales, including assault rifles. The state of Florida allows a person to buy the AR-15 rifle and multiple rounds at the age of eighteen. When Florida Governor Scott was asked about changing that law, he avoided being specific in his answer.
Keeping our schools safe rests in the hands of the members of Congress. All 435 members of the House of Representatives will be up for election in November, 2018. The Midterms give every eligible American a chance to vote for their representative. Find out their position on passing Gun Control laws; background checks , closing loopholes at gun shows and internet, and a ban on assault rifles. We have all witnessed too many candle light vigils, flags at half mast, moments of silence and heart broken parents since Columbine. It is long past the time to take action to stop the escalating proliferation of guns and assault weapons in our schools and our nation.
……………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson