Let’s remember their names: Alaina, Aaron, Alex, Alyssa, Cara, Carmen, Chris, Gina, Helena, Jaime, Joaquin, Luke, Martin, Meadow, Nicholas, Peter and Scott.
All 17 are victims of last week’s mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida — an upper-middle class place that loves its parks, touts its promising young athlete-scholars and looks, on paper, a lot like Camas.
Carmen was a 16-year-old National Merit Scholar semifinalist. Nicholas had been recruited to swim for the University of Indianapolis. Aaron was an assistant football coach and father, who threw himself in the line of fire to save petrified teenagers. The list just goes on, one heartbreaking tale after another.
Their killer, a 19-year-old former Stoneman Douglas student who had been expelled for his violent tendencies, entered the school on Valentine’s Day, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, ready to terrorize.
What happened in Parkland is every parent’s worst, most unimaginable nightmare: You send your child to school and they never come home.
Sadly, too many U.S. parents have lived this nightmare. Today, Americans have a 25 times greater chance of being murdered in a mass shooting than citizens of any other developed nation.
The people who could help stop this madness, are either so out of touch with reality — or so beholden to the National Rifle Association — that they blame our country’s mass shooting epidemic on everything but the guns used to terrify and slaughter our children.
Last week, for example, after Washington State politicians failed to pass legislation that would raise the minimum age for purchasing the AR-15 — a favorite killing machine for mass shooters — from 18 to 21, KIRO 7 News reporters interviewed our local state senator, Republican Lynda Wilson, who said she didn’t think raising the age would “solve our problems.” Instead, Wilson told reporters: “This is not a gun issue. This is a mental health issue.”
When politicians tell you that it’s not the guns, never the guns, beware. Who are they protecting? The majority of Americans want sane gun control. But the NRA doesn’t care about that. They only care about gun profits. And the politicians they pay know this. In 1992, 60 percent of the NRA’s contributions went to Republican candidates. Today, that number is 99 percent. So, we need to take the modern GOP’s stance on “gun rights” with a few shakers of salt.
Although violent fantasies and contempt for women are common among mass shooters, this is not “a mental health issue.” It is a gun issue. And the research backs it up: In a 2016 analysis of 235 U.S. mass murders, most of which involved guns, only 22 percent of the perpetrators were considered mentally ill.
We already know that gun control works in other developed nations. We even know that gun control works here. The U.S. had a federal assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004. The number of mass shootings didn’t disappear in those 10 years, but it did drop dramatically: with the number of people killed in mass shootings decreasing by 43 percent during the ban years and then, after the ban lapsed in 2004, skyrocketing by 239 percent.
Gun control works, but you won’t hear that from too many Republican officials. They seem to care more about their NRA rating than our children’s lives.
We know who takes money from the NRA. And we know how they vote on gun issues. We know, for instance, that our congresswoman, Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, has received more NRA dollars than any other current Washington State politician — more than $95,000, according to KIRO. We also know that Beutler votes in favor of NRA-approved legislation.
So, the next time you hear a politician trying to deflect blame away from the guns, remember the Parkland victims. Ask yourself, “Do I support gun manufacturers more than this nation’s children?”
If your answer is “no,” then use your voice in the upcoming elections and stand with the young Parkland survivors who are crying out for gun control even as they say goodbye to their friends and teachers this week. Tell your elected officials that you will no longer fall for their tired attempts to manipulate you on what is so very clearly “a gun issue.”