I don’t feel numb to the massacre of children in American schools.
I feel a growing anguished disgust.
Last week, an 18-year-old man fatally shot at least 21 people at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. It’s just the latest in a long series of uniquely American horror stories.
The reason each school shooting feels worse than the one preceding it is precisely because it keeps happening. We know how to make them less likely, but GOP politicians hold our children hostage.
The Republicans are now wholly owned by the National Rifle Association, which is owned by the gun manufacturers. They continue to deny evidence and common sense that improving gun safety laws would mean fewer such tragedies.
Their denial is deadly for America’s children.
Why should a disturbed 18-year-old be able to buy two AR-15 rifles and 375 rounds of ammunition -- enough to wipe out an entire school? Why is America the only country where this keeps happening? Why do we allow our children to be traumatized by intruder drills, never feeling safe at school, fearing classmates and teachers being gunned down?
Guns are now the leading cause of death for children and adolescents in America.
We are a sick country.
As I followed the reports of the events in Uvalde, I was struck by these observations and how the “debate” following these mass gun crimes often goes in the same circles.
Think about how gruesome this is: “The parents had to provide DNA samples because their children’s bodies had been mutilated beyond recognition,” wrote historian Kevin M. Kruse on Twitter.
What if Americans had to face the images of the brutalized victims of these mass shootings? How much longer would we tolerate the status quo?
Current and former teachers described the terror and trauma of intruder drills and the unthinkable scenarios they are forced to act out with the smallest children.
“What they don’t tell you is teachers are told in training that they have to lock out any of their students who are out of the classroom,” tweeted author and teacher Erin Hahn. “Even if they beg and bang on the door. Because there could be a shooter using them to access your classroom.”
That means if a kindergartner uses the bathroom and gets stuck in a hallway during an intruder drill -- or, the worst possible nightmare, an actual attack -- that 5-year-old would be crying and banging on his teacher’s door to be let inside, only to be left in the hall. Potentially with a killer.
Others pointed out how quickly the government is able to take action on behalf of powerful adults, but not vulnerable children.
“Ten days ago it took the Senate about twenty minutes to unanimously pass a bill extending security protection to the family members of Supreme Court justices when it looked like a house might be picketed,” noted Kieran Healy, a sociology professor at Duke.
Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has signed dozens of bills making it easier to buy guns in Texas, was asked at a press conference about gun safety reforms. He pivoted, pointing fingers at the gun violence in Chicago.
Journalist Kelly Bauer tweeted in response: “(about) 60% of ‘crime guns’ taken in by Chi police are bought in other states where laws are more lenient” -- a point echoed by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker.
So, what is the Republican response to school shootings? It’s often “put more cops in schools” or even “arm the teachers.”
“But guess what?” tweeted legal analyst and scholar Harry Litman. “There was an armed officer in Uvalde, and then two more arrived on the scene. They didn’t stop the killer, who was in the school for an hour before being killed.”
“Not one, not two, but three armed cops” failed to stop the Uvalde shooter, agreed writer Alex Thomas.
More than 90% of Americans support universal background checks for gun purchases.
“I personally own a closet full of guns. I also have a concealed carry permit. And I will ‘happily’ fill out more paperwork and have my background checked if it means little kids get to go home to their parents at night. The Senate needs to vote on HR 8 now @SenSchumer,” tweeted tech expert Zack Nelson.
Nelson was referring to the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, which expands background checks to private gun sales and gun shows. It passed the House in March 2021. All 50 Republican senators, plus Democrat Joe Manchin, are opposed to it in the Senate.
National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman succinctly captured what America has become: “The truth is, one nation under guns.”