On the day we celebrate love and friendship, another troubled young man obsessed with guns — and empowered with the easy access to them America affords — stole the innocent lives of students and teachers at a South Florida school.
The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School images are unforgettable: A girl evacuating in formation clutching a huge teddy bear and Valentine’s Day balloons. A parent — waiting to learn if her child was dead, alive or injured — wearing a T-shirt that said in pink, “Be Happy.” On a grassy spot at a nearby subdivision, the stone-faced killer, 19, surrendering by lying on the ground for self-preservation. He wanted to kill and live.
This madness used to be something that happened elsewhere, but this time terror hit home: Parkland, a lusciously green suburban city named one of the safest in the country, the kind of place where baseball and soccer fields are filled with cheering and high-fives, and the stately library is treasured, too.
The victim tally — 17 dead so far, at least 15 more wounded — makes this the deadliest mass school shooting since Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut. It’s also the third mass shooting in Florida in two years.
I’ve shed more tears than I knew I had in me. I’m weary and worn after years of writing about mass shootings — and watching elected officials, in Congress and particularly in the state of Florida, take no action to stop them, but to instead expand the proliferation of weapons like the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle Nikolas Cruz used Wednesday.
As the mother of two teachers — one in Broward who knew some of the victims — I can’t take it anymore. I want to take my family and run away, home-school the kids, hide from this madness.
Our children’s right to an education in peace and our teachers’ right to educate them in a safe environment trumps that free-for-all Second Amendment interpretation that has brainwashed Americans into submission to the NRA.
We want to wake up to an America that has come to its senses, not one in which our state Legislature is constantly considering bills to further arm the already promiscuous “Gunshine State.”
We want to wake up in an America in which Congress — and the president — aren’t beholden to the NRA lobby that funds election campaigns, perpetuating mediocre lawmakers in power to legislate only in their favor, never in ours.
Our children’s rights supersede Senator Marco Rubio’s right to amass a war chest of $3.3 million in contributions from the National Rifle Association.
“I wish this community would wake the f--- up. How’s that for diction?”
This, from my kind-hearted, painstakingly well-mannered teacher daughter, finally angry late at night Wednesday after exhibiting more poise and clarity in the middle of the shooting crisis than I could muster.
I only could feel new anger at watching Gov. Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi, both NRA enthusiasts, peddling thoughts and prayers at a Parkland press conference — and offering to pay for funerals and counseling. As if that could make up for the fact that this happened on their watch — and as a result of their pro-gun Republican agenda.
Ours is “a state focused on keeping our children safe,” Scott said. What a cynic. This is a state focused on growing the gun industry. His heart and soul belong to them. In 2014, the NRA lauded Scott’s “unmatched record” of support. “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history,” the NRA noted.
To politicians, these latest victims of gun violence pose a campaign opportunity to appear human when their record says differently. But for people who knew them, there’s real grief. They’re not names on a list but part of a caring, larger family of committed Broward educators.
This one’s on you, Gov. Scott.
This one’s on you, Florida Legislature.
This one’s on you, Congress.
This is happening under your rule now, Donald Trump.
You can’t duck like your pal Scott from the gun issue, Mr. President, with the same overused rhetoric.
“You can stop the guns from getting into these children’s hands!” the mother of a victim cried into a television microphone . “You can do a lot! I just spent the last two hours on the burial arrangements for my daughter’s funeral. Who is 14! President Trump, please do something!”
We’ve had it. We can’t take it anymore.
We won’t be judging you by the size of your stupid military parade, but by what you do about gun violence. Our voices will rise with the might of our vote from here on out. It’s already happening in every election since November 2016; we’re waking up slowly but surely.
All the gun-worship talking points and the empty, hypocritical thoughts and prayers, Republicans, mean nothing to the people whose existence has been ripped from this earth, to the injured, and to the families destroyed by unimaginable grief.
No one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School will ever be the same again. No student and no teacher in any school in America will ever be safe under the watch of elected people who think weapons of war belong on the streets.
No one needs assault weapons to safeguard their homes or businesses. No one needs them for hunting. Man has hunted for food and sport since the beginning of time. That kind of firepower is the coward’s invention — and a savvy industry’s profit.
It’s killing our kids.
In the aftermath of tragedy, a friend tells me, it isn’t the ‘what’ and the ‘when’ that matters, but the ‘why’ and the ‘how.’
After we learn all the gory details of the face of evil and chart the trail of the bloody shooting spree, mass shooting after mass shooting, we confirm that the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ point to the uniquely American culture of worshiping guns.
The madmen are us for letting this vital truth go without taking any meaningful action. We wait, easy bait, for the next face of evil.