Three days after a school shooting in Newton, Conn., a grim-faced President Obama presented a national address, during which his mood wavered between sad and angry. Twenty children and six adults had been shot dead by a deranged man. And that shooting came at the end of a year when there already had been seven previous shootings, a number accounting for a full one-tenth of all school shootings in U.S. history, according to numbers from the New Republic.
"We can't tolerate this anymore," Obama intoned. "These tragedies must end. And to end them we must change." He seemed to be placing his entire reputation on the promise he would do something to curtail children's access to firearms. "I will use whatever power this office holds," he continued, "to engage my fellow citizens—from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators—in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."
Yet, since that time, little has happened; at least, legislatively speaking.
In terms of shootings at schools, unfortunately a great deal has happened. In the 19 months since, there have been a stunning 74 shootings at schools across the country; about one per week, including a 19-year old student from Portland killed on June 5 at Seattle Pacific University, and the shooting on June 10 at Oregon's second largest high school, Reynolds High. In that shooting, a 15-year-old boy was killed.
It is a disgrace. It is a disgrace that lawmakers continue to be ineffectual and not move forward any reasonable concessions to limit kids' access to guns. And it is disgraceful that when a legislator does present reasonable suggestions for managing this epidemic that so-called "gun rights" advocates respond with bluster and threats, as if a solution for gun control must be an all-or-nothing proposition.
Consider even the innocuous and sober setting of a doctor's office: Obviously, an important part of pediatricians' jobs is keeping kids healthy, and part of keeping kids healthy is keeping them alive. Pediatricians provide recommendations about eating vegetables and wearing bike helmets, but in many states, questioning whether a parent is keeping a gun at home puts their practice at jeopardy, even though guns have killed as many kids in the past decade as American soldiers were killed during the Vietnam War.
In 2011, for example, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a National Rifle Association-sponsored law that forbid pediatricians from asking about guns in the home—and imposed massive fines if a doctor did discuss gun safety. The law is currently on appeal, and the NRA has continued to push similar legislation in at least five other states.
Sadly, the NRA is rabid in its stance to not budge a centimeter for gun safety. In May, when reached for comment by The Daily Beast about its opposition to doctors speaking with children about gun safety, a NRA spokesperson posited, "if these pediatricians want to help us, we welcome their membership in the NRA." She added, "Dues are 25 dollars a year."
That unhelpful response would be completely ridiculous if some several hundred kids hadn't died or been injured from mishandled guns since the statement was made five weeks ago.
These my-way-or-the-highway responses from "gun rights" advocates continue to hold the discussion about gun safety hostage—and only polarize the nation's mentality.
After last week's shooting at Reynolds High, state senator Ginny Burdick, who represents a portion of Portland, suggested that the parents of the shooter be held criminally liable for the deaths. In that incident, the 15-year-old shooter was armed to the teeth with guns he acquired from his parents—and this wasn't one wayward gun, but an arsenal, including a semiautomatic handgun, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and an AR-15 rifle—basically an M-16—and, gun enthusiasts please spare me the hate mail over the slight differences between an AR-15 and an M-16; the point is that this is not a deer hunting rifle.
Sadly, after making the suggestion for more parental responsibility, Burdick herself received a death threat.
This is absurd and disgraceful. There are thoughtful and reasonable ways to manage guns, and to save hundreds of children's lives each year. And restrictions that will not end the Second Amendment.