No Child Should Have to Say a Prayer for a Murdered Friend
Can we be realistic for a moment? Almost three weeks after the Parkland massacre, the flurry of conversation about gun control seems to be dying down. Forgive the unintended and tasteless pun; I’m feeling bitter and I’m here to talk about it. We can’t afford to keep launching semantics grenades at each other from the safety of our political camps and in reality, do nothing.
Is there any chance that just this once we could put partisan politics aside and address an issue that is despicably unique to our country and is a crisis that must be resolved before another life is lost?
Even before accurate details emerged following the Parkland shooting, my social media newsfeed was flooded with messages from both sides of the aisle: “Teachers With Guns Could’ve Stopped the Florida Shooter,” “Let’s Protect the President With Thoughts And Prayers, Instead of the Secret Service.” One Republican friend wasted no time citing countless statistics on mass shootings during years in which the country was governed by Democratic presidents, while a Democrat friend posted endless memes mocking the contrived sympathy of Republican lawmakers.
My teenage daughter just returned from BBYO’s international convention in Orlando. More than 3,000 Jewish teens from around the world came to learn and grow, and return to their communities motivated to make a positive impact. This year’s mission, “Together We Will,” shifted toward graver implications when several teens who were scheduled to attend the conference were murdered the day before.
My daughter has friends who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Their lives, and hers, will be forever changed, just like the communities of Columbine, Sandy Hook and too many others.
No child should have to say a prayer for a murdered friend, but that’s just what they did at numerous services during the weekend.
It needs to end.
Mass shootings are a despicable epidemic that is endemic to our country regardless of the political affiliation of our officials in any given year. Politicians on both sides are too busy worrying about the next election and fiercely guarding their decaying seats, instead of once and for all opening their hearts and minds to ensure that Parkland (and now Michigan) is our last shooting-related tragedy.
Gun control is not a one-dimensional issue, and glomming onto singular arguments is naïve. We need extensive, comprehensive and rigorous mental health background checks, along with a ban on assault weapons, a buy-back amnesty program and a long hard look at our culture. What is it that makes certain teenagers believe that shooting up a school is a realistic option? Is it copycatting borne out of the ease with which they can acquire weapons? How do we switch the mental state of would-be shooters who now think this is a viable option?
According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, one in five youths aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental illness at some point, yet the overwhelming majority do not commit heinous crimes. Simply pointing to mental illness stigmatizes those who suffer and distracts from the real issue. While it is a contributing factor and Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland murderer is clearly mentally ill, that alone does not explain his actions.
No one, including the Supreme Court, should dispute the rights of Americans to bear arms, but the Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, intended to form militias to curb rebellions (including slave uprisings). It was crafted at a time when the country had no standing army, and when assault weapons did not exist. In 2016 Hillary Clinton said, “I’m not looking to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not looking to take people’s guns away, but I am looking for more support for the reasonable efforts that need to be undertaken to keep guns out of the wrong hands.” Regardless of political bent, why is this approach so hard to grasp?
Many politicians have responded to mass shootings by deflecting the conversation. “Now is not the time to talk about it,” is not good enough. It’s time. Gun control does work. It works in Israel, Australia, Canada, Japan, England, Spain, Sweden, Germany and Denmark. After the Port Arthur massacre, Australia enacted massive reforms, which have prevented further tragedies. Why do we not look to other countries for guidance?
I’ve heard countless advocates for placing ex-military armed guards in schools or arming teachers. Judging by the layout of any typical high school, I’m wondering how many kids and teachers would have to die in a class on one side of the building by the time an armed guard gets from the entrance to the scene of the massacre. Even if teachers had extensive military training, I’m hard pressed to believe that they’d have the wherewithal and time to pull out a gun, and prevent a shooting when suddenly faced with an assault weapon. Those who argue that arming teachers would lessen the death toll have it wrong: The goal is to prevent, not mitigate. To say nothing of the moral and physical imposition of changing their job description from teacher to armed guard. A would-be shooter hell bent on murder, who knows the teachers are armed, would likely shoot the teacher first, leaving all students unprotected. It makes no sense.
If I see one more GIF declaring that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, I’ll scream. Is this really the time for oversimplification and semantics? Words are just words: This shouldn’t be a partisan issue borne out of semantic slogans. Let’s not waste any more time on politicization and self-interest and act before it’s too late. Yet again.