It was an ordinary Valentine’s Day four years ago when my class was interrupted by incoming news of an active shooter in a Florida high school. On Feb. 14, 2018, a 19-year-old opened fire on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, but the impacts were far-reaching indeed.
More than 1,000 miles away, the breaking news coming in just before our class started – “17 Dead in School Shooting” – was unavoidable. As a class, we pivoted to the current event and shared stories, and I did my best to make a teachable moment out of the horror.
I shared with students about my experiences with gun violence. In 2017, I watched a livestream as a gunman opened fire onto a Las Vegas concert crowd. Friends at the concert were in harm’s way, two of the nicest people I know were hit and luckily survived. With the sometimes horrifying miracles of modern technology, I was watching it in real time.
When I shared, they did as well and collectively it was replete: we had been on hitlists; we had hidden behind furniture and in closets during shooting events; we had known people shot and killed.
The commonality of this persistent epidemic of preventable violence is why March for our Lives featured events in 400 U.S. cities on June 11.
There are always choices in how we – individually or collectively – proceed. I can repeat the well known science on guns and violence or ugly conclusions like: people in the U.S. are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations, including Australia, France, England, Scotland, Israel, South Korea, Japan, Norway, Poland and Slovenia.
I have seen guns in my classrooms after Georgia made their version of concealed carry legal on college and university campuses.
It was painful to hear the apology survivors of the 1999 Columbine High School shooting made to the survivors of the 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting: “We’re sorry we couldn’t stop it,” the Columbine survivors told the Florida students and educators.
There are some signs for encouragement, however. There is broad partisan agreement for some gun policy proposals: red flag laws enabling removal of guns from people deemed a danger, requiring background checks for purchases made at gun shows and opposition to concealed carry without a permit.
Unimaginably, however, common-sense gun legislation with bipartisan approval continues to fail. At some point, the people must be prepared to take the power back into their own hands.
The net result from all these years of mass shootings and gun violence has been ineffective thoughts and prayers.
Not one wake-up call has been answered, no matter how innocent the victims were.
It is time that the people recognized the call to collective action. This is a power that can be employed when the state ignores and refuses to act on behalf of its citizens — “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
It is time the people used their First Amendment rights to put an end to the deaths enabled by the Second Amendment. Like Jeff Tiedrich wrote with bitter sarcasm, “Well-Regulated Militia Opens Fire In Robb Elementary School in Uvalde (Texas).” The supreme stupidity of the outcomes of our gun policies must change.
Any politician failing to vote for common-sense gun laws should not be re-elected. Period. This is our responsibility to track and act.
It is time for the bleeding to stop; and it is time to apply direct pressure until the bleeding stops.
Wim Laven, Ph.D., syndicated by PeaceVoice, teaches courses in political science and conflict resolution.