The next time you hear a politician respond with their “thoughts and prayers” to the next mass shooting, you should understand that they likely are expressing their “thoughts” of the massive donations they have received and hope to continue to receive from the powerful gun lobby and their “prayers” that their perpetual thwarting of reasonable gun laws will have zero effect on their reelection.
That next time could well be tomorrow, given that the Parkland high school attack was the 1,624th time that four or more people were shot in one incident in the United States in the 1,870 days that led up to it since Jan. 1, 2013.
I had given up hope that this ever would change, but I am sensing a new energy that is rekindling my belief that maybe it could. That energy is coming from American teenagers, many of whom have lost classmates in these tragedies. From press conferences to Sunday morning talk shows to White House lie-ins, they are calling BS on the deflections and excuses of those willing to continue to sacrifice our nation’s children to the altar of the NRA.
BS to the politicians who say “now is not the time.” As 17-year-old David Hogg told CNN, “I want to ask them: When is? How many more children need to die?”
BS to the politicians who say, “We should not politicize these deaths.” Cameron Kasky, an 11th-grader at Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, responded, “they don’t understand that if we don’t politicize it, no action is going to come from this. We need to start moving now…. We need action, and we demand it. And we’re going to get it.”
Emma Gonzalez, a senior at the school, denounced gun defenders’ lies at a rally Saturday with these words: “They say tougher guns laws do not decrease gun violence. We call BS. They say a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun. We call BS. They say guns are just tools like knives and are as dangerous as cars. We call BS. They say no laws could have prevented the hundreds of senseless tragedies that have occurred. We call BS. That us kids don’t know what we’re talking about, that we’re too young to understand how the government works. We call BS.”
Right they are. Study after study has shown that countries and states with stronger gun regulations have dramatically lower rates of gun violence. The presence of armed guards has not stopped these tragedies. It’s incontrovertible that someone armed with an assault weapon can kill far more people at once than any knife or car could. Sensible measures like bans on assault weapons; implementation of background checks on all gun transfers, waiting periods, and gun permits; mandates on safe storage of weapons; and gun buyback programs repeatedly have been shown to result in double digit annual reductions in gun-related homicides.
Student organizers from Stoneman Douglas have announced that they will lead a nationwide demonstration on March 24 in Washington, D.C. and cities across the country. Cameron Kasky explained, “We are going to be marching together as students, begging for our lives.”
Students also are planning walkouts. The first is planned for March 14th, one month after the Parkland shooting. Students and teachers are being urged to walk out of their schools at 10 a.m. local time for 17 minutes, in memory of the 17 people massacred in Parkland. Another is planned for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School killings of 13 people in Colorado. More than 22,000 have already pledged to walk out of their classrooms at 10 a.m. that day.
These kids do know what they are talking about. They are making their voices heard. Some of them can already vote. Most of the rest will be able to vote soon. If they can continue to keep front of mind the blood on the hands of politicians who have done nothing to stem the ongoing slaughter of our nation’s children, it will be bad news for Republicans: GOP candidates received more than 98 percent of the $6 million in gun lobby campaign support in 2016 alone.
After the assault weapon attack that killed 49 mostly queer, Latinx people (and wounded 58 others) at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub, dozens of LGBTQ organizations called for stronger protections against gun violence. It’s hard, amid all the many attacks on our community, to choose which to focus on, but it’s not an either-or situation. My thoughts are that we, and everyone else, need to listen to the young people who say enough is enough. My prayers are that we will join together to vote out the scoundrels and support only politicians who will vote for the laws we need to save our and our children’s lives.