This is a piece I’ve considered writing too many times. Every few months when an event like last Wednesday’s school shooting happens, I begin writing this piece. And every time, inevitably, I give in to the voice in my head that says, “It’s pointless; nothing will ever change,” and it never runs. But I’m not listening to it this time; I feel obligated to use the platform I have.
I realize that this piece might not go over well here, just like it won’t go over well with much of my own family. I understand the arguments and the desire to defend the second amendment, and I understand that in most cases, nothing I have to say will change anyone’s mind. After all, I’m one of those progressive millennials. I believe this needs to be said, though.
This is not normal.
Over the years it’s started to feel that way, since we see a new report about a mass shooting seemingly every week or month. But make no mistake -- this does not happen on this scale in any other developed country. In no other developed country do children, who did nothing more than go to school like they were supposed to, get slaughtered in droves this way. In no other country do survivors of previous school shootings go on Twitter to comfort victims and survivors of the current one in real time. It just isn’t normal.
Because all those other developed countries have not allowed it to happen the way we have. In April 1996, an Australian man killed 35 people in one incident. The Australian government then took the necessary action to prevent it from happening again, and guess what? It hasn’t. In that same time period, thousands of Americans have died needlessly because, it seems, their actual lives aren’t as important as the defense of an outdated amendment or the NRA’s million-dollar contributions to Republican political campaigns.
“But gun laws wouldn’t change anything; criminals would continue to get their hands on guns.” Sure, they might for a while until the right solutions get worked out, but don’t we have a duty, a moral responsibility, to do everything we can to try to prevent every death we can? Fewer guns means fewer deaths, and excuses and inaction only put more guns out there.
Some would argue that the actions we need to take are to put more armed people in schools or to address mental illness, but these “solutions” only distract from the actual problems. A man with ties to a white nationalist organization was able to purchase an AR-15 rifle and slaughter 17 people in a school. Nothing justifies that reality. This is not the America our founding fathers had in mind.
Immediately following shootings like this, people have a tendency to attempt to put off the discussion, saying “Give the families and victims time to grieve.” But last week, even the families and survivors were asking to have the conversation. Children -- no different from the ones I have the pleasure of watching compete in high school sports every day -- were begging the government to do something. To take action that would help keep more like them from dying.
I couldn’t help but put myself in their shoes, or in the shoes of their loved ones. It isn’t hard for me to do -- I have a brother still in middle school; my mother is a teacher, and my sister is studying to be one. If any of them, God forbid, had to go through this experience, I would never accept inaction by those in charge.
The “thoughts and prayers” of those people are simply not enough. Think and pray if you must, but then do something. “Thou shall not kill” is one of the most absolutely vital of the Ten Commandments, and I don’t think it’s blasphemous of me to think that “Thou shall not stand by and make excuses for why killing is so easy” is implied in that, as well.
This is not normal. Stop allowing it to be.