“Not again; please … not again. We were having coffee the last morning before our return from what was a wonderfully relaxing and contemplative trip to the Oregon Coast, when “breaking news” announced another school shooting in progress.
My mind looked grimly into the future of minute to minute coverage — counting the dead and injured, profiling the killer, discovering the heroes and heroines, counting the guns, talking to the witnesses, naming the dead, looking for motive, learning the killer had known mental problems expressed in hate and anger, honoring the dead, hearing every politician start a long sentence with “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and burying the dead.
The scene plays out as I write this, and I am struck by how punishing it feels.”
I wrote the introduction to the column I named “Paralysis,” published in the Sequim Gazette Oct. 14, 2015 following the school shooting that occurred in Roseburg, Ore., in which 10 people were killed.
Let’s see, that’s about 854 days, or two years and four months, before our most recent student killings that occurred in Parkland, Fla.
I haven’t written about school shootings since, even though, they are happening on a regular basis, it seems. Reports tell us there have been 18 school shootings since the beginning of the year. My source says 17 incidents involving firearms.
A drill down into the numbers tells us that those shootings include everything from random shots being fired into the school after school hours to suicide on school campuses to one or two deaths to the mass killings at Parkland.
None of that should make us feel any better. Each shot in a school or anywhere in public for that matter, is terrorizing, an assault to our sense of safety. Many of us thought, me among us, that the Newtown school shooting in which 20 children, grade school children, and six adults were killed, would be the turning point.
That was 2012, more than five years ago. Nothing turned, no action on further gun control, but lots of thoughts and prayers from elected leaders during subsequent shootings.
Three years later, I wrote the sentiments of many after Roseburg, when I wrote:
“Solutions circle the deaths and, if the past is any indicator, will be buried or spread to the winds along with the lifeless remains of the victims. The ritualistic political positioning over the fate of wasted lives has begun and we are once again aware of the political paralysis of action, a term I use to describe the severe apathy of the political class of our country who can’t come together to even discuss the issue of preventing school shootings.”
What will change?
The only difference I know is that I’ve changed. I stopped believing it was political paralysis. I know the failure to act today as deliberate or intentional. My opinion will not change unless the Republican led Congress and Republican President come together and make meaningful gun control laws.
I don’t know and probably wouldn’t understand the reason for failure to provide for the right to life so that the individual right to own an assault rifle is protected. I don’t know why people who are on the no-fly list and people who have made clear threats to the safety of others are not put on a list for further investigation before they are allowed a gun of any kind.
Many point to the millions of dollars that the NRA gives to candidates that enjoy a high compliant grade with the NRA as the explanation. The NRA doesn’t want any more and, if possible, less gun control.
Some point to the “absolute” right of each of us to have a gun as allowed in the Second Amendment. Neither explanation explains or meshes with poll results that state the vast majority of Americans want more sensible gun control laws.
Something is off when our controlling Republican party says it speaks for the American people. My guess is that most Americans would agree with those Republicans who say we need better mental health care, but not at the exclusion of sensible gun control. Besides, they don’t seem to value mental health care, at least not when it comes to funding it or including it in a comprehensive health care plan.
Children speaking truth to power
All the pro-gun arguments diminish in the photos of smiling children now dead, now former students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland; weaken in hearing the voices of children, articulate in their outrage; and fail at the sight of angry grieving children stepping forward demanding action to prevent the killing of children.
Doesn’t seem like too much to ask? Does it.
Newtown parents spoke through their grief and surrounded the Washington, D.C. powerful with their tears to no avail. Will it be the faces and voices of children whom the President dare not counterpunch that will either crack or expose the selfish resistance for what it is?
Fittingly, I will end this column with the words I ended the October 2015 column, just change the name of the school after the next shooting.
“Our political leaders are as paralyzed in the face of guns as the shocked Roseburg students crowded in a circle waiting … just waiting. Sending thoughts and prayers is supportive but my guess is every person who has lost a loved one, wants more.”
Bertha Cooper spent her career years as a health care organization and program administrator and consultant and is a featured columnist in Sequim Gazette. Cooper has lived in Sequim with her husband for nearly 20 years.