To Parkland, With Love

The silence must be unbearable—for 17 families of children and teachers gunned down in a Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Those killed take with them the laughter, the love, the chatter over the breakfast table, the whispers at night. They leave quiet. Too much quiet.

I was raised in the home of a hunter, and I made sure that the guns were removed from the house when the hunter grew old with Alzheimer’s and dementia. That is what we do. We do what we can to keep our loved ones safe. We keep sharp scissors away from children until they have the common sense and coordination to use them safely.

But we as a country fail to work that way. We experience mass killings over and over—and do nothing. We do not close loopholes in gun-buying laws. We do not have sufficient background checks. We don’t even compile research about gun violence to help us make good decisions, and that’s mandated by a 20-year-old law (the 1996 Dickey Amendment) pushed through by the National Rifle Association that prevents federal funds from being used to “advance or promote gun control.”

In short, we do not do everything in our power to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, children, the mentally ill, the angry, the depressed. Why not? It’s enough to make a mother weep.

Our president rolls back regulations that would have limited the ability of certain people with mental illness to purchase firearms.

Our leaders in Congress and statehouses across the country are too power hungry to turn down NRA “blood money.” The NRA has spent tens of millions of dollars over the years in support of gun rights, according to figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics using Federal Election Commission data. (Go to this link to find out exactly who in your state takes NRA contributions. But, remember this only covers direct spending on federal candidates, which is small compared to NRA funds flooding statehouses where the real gun battles are fought.)

I am tired of excuses that carrying a firearm is your right or that “guns don’t kill people; people kill people.” If you are not part of finding solutions to common-sense gun reform, you are part of the problem.

I am tired of our leaders standing before cameras and offering their “thoughts and prayers.” Thoughts and prayers? I will remember those meaningless platitudes—and your lack of brave policies—when I enter the voting booth.

I am tired of weeping.

Our math doesn’t have to be so complicated. It is simple: Fewer guns mean fewer people die.

As Former President Obama said, “We are not powerless.”

Our leaders can strengthen background checks. They can repeal the Dickey amendment. They can close the gun show loophole so private sales of firearms require a background check. They can ban bump stocks, which make weapons virtually automatic. They can pass “no fly, no buy,” so suspected terrorists can’t purchase guns.

Yeah, they can do all these things and have even considered them. But somehow nothing ever gets done.

So, from now on, let elected officials and those running for office be on notice: You will be required to take a stand. And if you do not act in our best interests, if you do not change the way this country looks at gun reform, you do not get an invitation to the party.

From now on, any silence will be unbearable.

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