December 14, 2012 is another one of those dates that sticks in my mind, along with the Kennedy assassination, the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, and 9/11. Eleven days before Christmas, I was in Middleburg, Virginia, having lunch with two of my sorority sisters from college. We shopped around the boutiques along the town’s main street. I bought a skirt that was on sale, thinking I could wear it during the holidays. We had just gotten in the car for the ride back to Washington, D.C., when we heard that 20 year-old Adam Lanza had walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, and shot and killed 20 children, six and seven year-olds, and six adult staff members. I thought, this has to be the moment. How can anyone not feel the pain, watching these innocent children mowed down with weapons of war?
This time, I believed, our country will unite and pass strong gun laws to prevent this type of tragedy.
Instead, the wagons circled. Republicans criticized Democrats for politicizing the tragedy. To add to the suffering of those parents, radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones called the shooting “a complete hoax,” staged by those opposing the Second Amendment who wanted to take guns away from law abiding Americans. He quickly found an audience. For years, the parents of those Sandy Hook children had to endure attacks from those who swallowed Jones’ lies. People harassed them with phone calls and showed up at their homes. Some of these families had to move to protect themselves. That these parents have now won a civil suit against Jones, one that, hopefully, will lead to his bankruptcy and shut him down, is no consolation for the ten years of suffering they have had to endure.
And so, it’s happened again. On May 24, an 18 year-old, armed with assault weapons and wearing body armor, walked into an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and shot and killed 19 children, second, third, and fourth graders, and two adults.
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy, who has fought for stricter gun measures, took to the senate floor moments after the shooting, to ask his senate colleagues, “What are we doing? Why are we here?”
Why indeed? Already some of those Republican senators, while offering the usual “my thoughts and prayers are with the families,” are criticizing the Democrats for using this moment to advance legislation to tighten up background checks. A bill that has been passed by Congress, sits in the senate. And it’s not just the Republicans. West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin, who is a Democrat but votes like a Republican, said he would not vote to suspend the filibuster so that the gun bill could pass by a simple majority vote, rather than the needed 60 votes. So once again, more children have died, nothing will happen.
Texas has one of the most liberal environments for gun ownership. At one point, Texas Governor Greg Abbott was “humiliated,” he said in a tweet, that Texas finished second to California, on the list of gun ownership. He urged Texans to buy more guns. To facilitate those sales, Texas passed laws to make it easier to become armed. Anyone 18 or older can walk into a gun store and purchase a gun, no questions asked. That’s what the shooter did.
A lot has changed since Sandy Hook. The shooters are better armed and protected than the police officers who show up to stop them. When a shooter walked into a Tops supermarket in Buffalo and killed ten people (just ten days before this shooting!) the security guard, a retired police officer, shot at him, but those bullets could not penetrate the shooter’s protective vest. Instead, the shooter retaliated and killed the guard.
The top elected officials in Texas – Governor Abbott and Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn – along with former President Donald Trump, are scheduled to attend the National Rifle Association’s annual convention happening in Houston, from May 27 through May 29. Will they still go? And how will they try to thread this needle? The optics will certainly be jarring.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hand down a ruling that will effectively reverse Roe v. Wade, making it more difficult for women to get an abortion. Ironically, Texas, with such liberal gun laws has one of the most restrictive abortion laws. This juxtaposition is typical with conservative Republicans who are determined to pass laws, ostensibly to protect the unborn, but then stand by and do nothing – nothing – to protect young children.
I echo Senator Murphy: “Why are we here? What are we doing?”
Eighty percent of Americans support stricter gun laws. The midterms are coming up. Vote to protect, really protect, children.
Top photo: Bigstock