Next week will mark the one-month anniversary of the deadliest high school shooting in U.S. history at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla. on Feb. 14, and Congress has done absolutely nothing to stop the national epidemic of school shootings in America.
I wrote a blog post for RealVail.com in the immediate aftermath of the shooting (re-posted below), but since then have watched in disgust as lawmakers have done nothing to stem the tide of bloodshed in our schools.
President Donald Trump out of the gate offered the weak “thoughts-and-prayers” platitude to Parkland victims but then quickly turned to the ludicrous idea of arming teachers as front-line defenders. Since then he’s alternately told Congress not to be afraid of the National Rifle Association and then cozied up to the powerful lobby, which got Trump to ditch reform talk.
Trump has stated repeatedly he will ban bump stocks that turn semi-automatic rifles into machineguns, but we’ve seen nothing yet – even after the device was used in the nation’s deadliest mass shooting in Las Vegas last year.
Trump’s also talked about raising the age to buy assault weapons to 21 and strengthening background checks, but again we’ve seen no new executive orders and nothing from Congress to preferably codify such reforms into law.
Instead, it’s been nearly a month, and school walkouts will highlight the issue on Wednesday, March 14, but our schools are no safer than they were on Feb. 13, and the blood of all these kids and teachers is on the hands of a do-nothing Congress and an out-of-control gun lobby.
The only entities do anything about this awful epidemic are corporations breaking ties with the NRA and retailers refusing to sell the weapons and the high-capacity magazines that make them so effective at slaughtering the highest number of people in the shortest amount of time. Shame on VISA for not listening to advocates and joining in the ban started by Dick’s Sporting Goods and joined by WalMart and others.
Make your retail and banking choices accordingly. Right now it’s the only thing we do — other than work to vote NRA stooges out of Congress in November.
So I lied to my three boys as I sent them out the door to school Thursday morning, telling them I would see them later. I have no idea if that’s true. They could die in an accident on the way to school, of course, or they could be slaughtered by a madman with a military-style assault rifle in their classrooms.
Then Thursday morning I watched as lawmakers and law enforcement officials in South Florida lied to us all by vowing they would do everything in their power to make sure that Wednesday’s school shooting that killed 17 in Parkland is not repeated somewhere else in Florida or around the nation.
They won’t do everything they can because they will be thwarted at every turn by federal politicians bought and sold by the National Rifle Association. The shooter in Florida reportedly legally purchased an AR-15 assault rifle despite repeatedly telling classmates he was obsessed with guns and wanted to do violent things. On social media he reportedly expressed the desire to become “a professional school shooter.”
And yet he legally purchased a gun meant to kill as many people as possible.
There have been eight fatal school shootings so far in the United States in 2018, and since Sandy Hook in 2012, when 20 elementary school students and six educators were slaughtered by a madman with an AR-15, there have been 239 school shootings nationwide killing more than 400 people.
Clearly, our schools are not even remotely safe from deranged shooters — and not illegal immigrants, gang members or radicalized Islamic terrorists. They are at extreme risk from suburban white kids isolated in their homes and living in a detached world of social media and ultra-violent video games.
Then Thursday morning I watched as President Donald Trump, whose White House has been in power and done little in the wake of three of the top 10 deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, lied to us all by saying school children have people who will “do anything at all to protect you.” That may be partially true on the front lines in our schools, but it’s an absolute lie in Washington, where nothing will change.
Bump stocks are still legal at the federal level despite the worst ever mass shooting last year in Las Vegas, and even suspected terrorists on the no-fly list aren’t being put on a watch list to prevent them from buying guns in this country. That’s how much power the gun lobby has over politicians in this country.
I also watched as the Today Show toured the Demilitarized Zone between South Korea and North Korea and proclaimed the the north one of the most dangerous countries in the world. If you’re a high school student in the United States today, you might argue your country is considerably more dangerous.
Here in Eagle County, Colorado, we are not immune from detached students with deadly intent. Last year there was a threat of violence and suicide at Battle Mountain High School, and yet so far this school year we’ve yet to have an open conversation about how that student is being counseled and how others might have been impacted. There was also a recent suicide of a middle school student in the school district.
Last fall we passed a pot tax to fund mental health services in the county, but so far we have no beds for emergency intervention, and we have no dedicated funding sources for in-school mental health counselors.
The AR-15 assault rifle is banned in Vail but nowhere else in Eagle County or most of the rest of the country, despite being used by the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook shooters in 2012 and many more mass shootings around the country. And there are very few state or federal mental health watch lists or laws that prevent a proclaimed “school shooter” from buying an AR-15 — or any kind of gun, for that matter.
Trump, who didn’t even use the word “gun” or talk policy at all during his statement Thursday, wants to spend $25 billion to secure our southern border, where illegal immigrants are coming into our country for work but almost never to shoot up our schools. Let’s pump that money into securing our schools instead.
All Trump has done so far, since rising to power by scaring the shit out of everyone with his “American carnage” rhetoric, is stoke the national sense of fear, isolation and hatred fueling the mass shootings. In fact, he recently rolled back an Obama law meant to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill.
And Trump’s recent budget proposal massively slashes funding for Medicaid, which in part pays for mental health services. So instead of bolstering spending on mental health, Trump wants to cut it dramatically.
Overseas we continue to spend trillions of dollars to fight terrorists on their territory before they reach our shores, but all we had to do to prevent 9/11 was ban box cutters on commercial airline flights and secure the cockpits of planes. Let’s bring the troops home and put them in our schools, where we have a national emergency that’s being ignored.
Our interventions in the Middle East have arguably made that region less stable, so instead of fruitlessly trying to foment democracy in places that simply may not be ready, let’s secure our own democracy that’s crumbling under attacks by corporate lobbyists and foreign powers using the Internet to shape our national discourse.
And let’s aggressively begin policing social media. As a journalist, I wholeheartedly support freedom of speech, but not when it advocates hate and violence. People are screaming “fire” in a crowded theater everyday on social media, and yet we’re doing nothing about it — ignoring all warning signs instead of compelling mental health counseling and preventing those people from buying guns.
Trump rose to power by attacking the government, stoking fears that it’s out to get you and take away your guns so you can’t rise up against it, and that’s had the effect of handcuffing the government from fulfilling its single-most important purpose — protecting its citizenry from violent death in public places. Our government was completely neutered by NRA-backed Republicans and complacent Democrats long before Trump, but his rise has made anti-government government the most fashionable thing in Washington.
Having written this blog, I’ll now be peppered with hateful comments and trolled by supporters of the Second Amendment, but who knows if those haters are even Americans. It’s just as likely that I’ll be hit by fake accounts set up in Russia, where Trump’s mentor and hero Vladimir Putin cracks down violently on free speech, gun ownership and dissent — for the sake of his own self-preservation.
Russia wants us divided on this issue, and Russian leaders want our kids being killed in schools. What makes us weaker, makes them stronger, and yet Trump won’t even acknowledge that last year’s election was at least partially swayed by Russian hackers. Nor will he call for anything to be done about it.
Why? Because he’s heavily in debt to Russian money launderers who stashed tons of money in his real estate empire. We’re all just waiting for special counsel Robert Mueller to confirm that set of facts, which former top Trump advisor Steve Bannon already did for us in “Fire and Fury.”
And now Trump will ignore our epidemic of mass shootings because he’s got the full backing of the NRA, which has reportedly been quietly accepting Russian campaign contributions as well.
We must vote in force to reclaim our Democracy in November, so that we can all stop lying to our kids about doing everything we can to stop mass school shootings.