It happened yet again

It happened yet again.

America once again played witness this past Wednesday to the mindless slaughter of innocent children and educators, this time at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. As in the past, Americans were again insulted by political leaders who issued hollow condolences while preaching that gun control changes aren’t necessary.

While parents everywhere weep for the lives destroyed by this senseless act, many are realizing that something like Columbine, Sandy Hook or Douglas could happen even here. Is there any doubt that thought has crossed the mind of every parent across America this last three days? As they put their son or daughter on a school bus or waved goodbye after dropping them off at school, somewhere in the back of their minds could be the nagging question, “What if I never see them again?” Because, it could happen here.

Afterward, the “sincere thoughts and prayers” read off a teleprompter or offered by politicians on Twitter — politicians who took no action the last time, the multiple times it happened — will be meaningless. There are politicians who will say, “This is not the time to politicize this,” but there is nothing political about finding ways to keep our children from being murdered, and the time to do it was, is and always will be “now!”

For the 122 victims of mass school shootings since Columbine in 1999, it’s already too late. That figure does not include the 58 people murdered at a concert in Las Vegas, the 49 murdered at a nightclub in Orlando, the 26 people murdered at a Baptist Church in Texas — and on and on. So where do we start, and when finally do we start, to ask ourselves, “When, why and how did mass murder become the ‘new normal’ in this country?”

You will hear politicians who do not want to offend their base or their donors say the real issue here is mental illness, and certainly not guns, or that military-style combat weapons are legally being sold to mentally ill people. They will, as always, default to the Second Amendment, an article of the Constitution written when the deadliest weapon available was a musket. In the 1930s, in the wake of a rising tide of prohibition-era gangster violence, Congress had the courage to ban the Thompson submachine gun, or Tommy Gun. One wonders if they would have the courage to do that today. Today, the excuse is mental illness and not guns.

Yet, even if we are to accept that explanation, how are we to accept the executive order signed by President Donald Trump in February of last year that overturned an Obama-era regulation aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of severely mentally ill people? In Donald Trump’s 2019 budget, the White House suggests cutting $12 million from a federal program that helps states maintain the background check system for gun purchases.

Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan has said we should not have a “knee-jerk reaction” to mass shootings by bringing up gun control, but any suggestion of common sense gun control laws evokes a negative knee-jerk reaction by politicians who get their largest donations from the National Rifle Association. It might be worth noting that even the vast majority of NRA members disagree with the leadership over this, with nearly 74 percent of NRA members in support of the kind of background checks the NRA opposes. Then again, the NRA’s main constituency is not law-abiding gun owners, it’s profiteering gun manufacturers.

It’s also worth noting that Ronald Reagan, an icon of conservative values in this country, eventually came around to supporting reasonable, common sense gun control and a ban on assault weapons. Years before Columbine, by the way. Again, this is not — or should not be — a political issue. It should not be conservatives versus liberals or Republicans versus Democrats. It should be about common sense.

Common sense gun laws have become equated with the idea that liberals want to break into your homes and steal your handguns, prevent you from hunting, or shooting sports, or don’t want to allow you to protect your homes and families. All of which is nonsense, but which is promoted by the NRA and their gun-manufacturing sponsors. It’s time to set aside what the NRA wants you to believe, and ask whether a 30-round magazine clip in a military-style weapon is really something we need to hunt deer. More importantly, it’s time to ask whether you want to send your child off to school knowing that even mentally disabled people can have access to those weapons. It is time — it is long past time — to get angry about this, and to let your legislators know how you feel, and if they don’t respond, to use your vote to remove them from office.

It could happen here. The question is, are we going to allow it to?