I have deliberately waited to write this piece. The emotions are still too raw. Last week while on vacation, I turned on the TV to view yet another senseless school shooting at Parkland High School just a stones throw from where we were staying in Florida. Fourteen innocent students and three faculty members were killed while over a dozen others were wounded by a self proclaimed “school shooter”. We will blame this on a muriad of reasons but the simple truth is that a willing individual had the tool to carry out his plan of destruction. But this is not the destruction of some inanimate object, it is the destruction of human life and the countless lives that life touched and would have touched. It is the destruction of families and friends and ultimately the trust that innocent students would be safe in their schools.
Reaction was swift and filled with rhetoric. “Thoughts and Prayers”. I am not saying that prayers are not necessary but they cannot be the only response. And they weren’t. There was the usual knee jerk reaction that we need to arm schools, have more “shooter drills” and spend more money on school security issues. And again, I am not saying that these security issues haven’t become the new necessary protocal, though arming schools is an abomination. Our children and educators should not have to be trained to become an armed camp. In some ways they are being made the culprit for not being armed when they were in fact the victim. Lets not lose sight of this. The real issue here is the gun in question, the AR 15 assualt rifle. There is simply no reason for an individual to own an assault rifle unless you are in the military or law enforcement.
I live in a state where my legislators want no waiting period to buy a weapon. In addition, they would cut spending that specifically reduces the mental health offerings that are clearly another symptom of these school shootings. How can we in good conscience claim that we are addressing this problem when we make it easier to obtain a gun and specifically an assault rifle.
And here comes the standard disclaimer. I grew up in a family where my father had several hunting rifles and married into a family where sport hunting is a major activity. I have countless friends who are hunters and own guns for this purpose. I am not against these guns nor would I advocate for their unlawful siezure. That said, none of my family members owned or saw a need to own an assualt weapon. An assualt weapon has one and only one purpose and that is to efficiently kill another person. They are not hunting weapons. I know the push back will be the person who says but I only target practice or collect them. I am sorry but the collection of children targeted and killed in school shootings by the AR 15 has become epidemic. Can we really advocate that our right to own one supercedes their right to life?
We have banned fully automatic rifles. It is time to do the right thing. It is time to be courageous in the face of the cowardly use of and argument against banning the AR 15 as well. I can hear the argument and I’ll even pose it. If we ban them, what about all the ones still in ownership out there? My response, it is the first step and one that is sinfully long overdue. Only by stopping the proliferation can we ever hope to ultimately remove the threat. I applaud the students who are now stepping into the outcry. They show the very maturity and conviction that we sent them to school to develop. I only pray that we will not simply write their movement off. We need our lawmakers to listen but listening without action is a placebo.
The victims of these shootings were generally too young to even vote. They depended on us to do the right thing with our votes. I for one will not ignore that responsibility. I will continue to vote with conviction for those legislators that will take on the courageous battle for educated, sane and meaningful gun legislation. These are our children that these families are burying this week. To pretend they are not and to simply send thoughts and prayers without action is cowardly. For my own children and my grandchildren, their future must change.