Yesterday morning, before I roused my youngest child for school, I sat on the edge of his bed and watched him sleep. I gazed at his small head and smiled at his little toes peeking out from under his blanket. My thoughts wandered to my two older children already at school. How lucky they are, I thought, that they didn’t have to wake up this morning to dead classmates and teachers. How lucky? My thoughts turned dark. Is that what it has come down to? My children’s lives are contingent on the luck of the draw? Because while I force myself to shake off the fear and wake my child to begin his day, that nagging little voice in the back of my head keeps whispering, “it can happen here too.” Can it? Can a school shooting happen right here in Bucks County?
In 1999, I was 14. I watched in shock as Columbine High School was shot up by two teens Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris. I remember my parents watching the news as kids were fleeing bullets, running out of the high school in search of safety. I remember my mother was in disbelief as she, and millions of other Americans wondered how someone could shoot up a school full of kids! I remember the angst of having to go to school myself, fearful and on edge that someone might try to copycat what happened at Columbine. That fear only lasted a few days as I remember thinking that despite the horror and tragedy of Columbine, it was a rare event. My parents insisted it was due to a failing of the boys’ upbringing, or that they had some kind of mental health issue. They assured me a school shooting wasn’t likely to happen here.
But could it?
I used to think not. I used to think that school shootings were uncommon and was not something I worried about as my husband and I brought three beautiful children into this world. I didn’t think I’d ever have to worry about sending my kids off to school to maybe die due to gun violence. I’m sure the parents of Sandy Hook felt the same way, but as I sit here pondering on one of the worst fears a parent could possibly have, I’m also reflecting on the rapidly growing history of gun violence this country is plagued with.
The US News and Report reprinted a story from the Associated Press that claims there have been 14 mass shootings at U.S. schools since Columbine in 1999. A total of 169 children and adults have been killed, the most recent occurring only a few days ago where 19 children were slaughtered by an 18 year old gunman. Just last week, in Buffalo New York a man live-streamed his rampage at a local grocery store on the popular gaming site Twitch. Though it was reportedly caught and taken down within minutes of uploading, leaks have circulated the internet and viewers can still, if they have to stomach to, watch the horrific shooting that targeted an area predominantly composed of black and brown Americans. Gun violence has been rising over the past 20 something years including mass shootings at schools, churches, and in communities of color. In fact, most shootings don’t even make the news except for local coverage unless the body count is in the double digits, a serious sign of disconnect that exists in our society and which is routinely ignored by Republicans.
Take for example the threat of Doug Mastriano if he was to be elected Governor of Pennsylvania in November. His voting record on gun control is anything but encouraging to progressives who want to curb the violence of America’s gun culture. In 2019 Mastriano voted yes on legislation that authorized schools to “apply for the designation of having individuals serve as school police officers, and to authorize those individuals the right to be armed.”
Mastriano’s plan to curb violence in schools is to increase the number of guns, not decrease them. Yet this strategy is typical of Republicans.
GOP member Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, a staunch supporter of gun rights, tweeted out yesterday that his “thoughts and prayers” were with the families who lost their children in the Uvalde Texas shooting. Yet his record on voting on gun safety legislation contradicts his self-serving “thoughts and prayers” bit. In 2013, one year after the Sandy Hook school shooting, Senator Cruz voted “NO” on adopting an amendment that would require a background check for firearms transfers made at gun shows or via the internet.
Republican pushback on gun reform has frustrated the millions of Americans who view gun violence and the senseless loss of life as preventable things. GOP lawmakers the likes of Mastriano and Senator Pat Toomey make it a habit to vote along party lines regarding gun control and reform legislation. Toomey’s record includes voting “No” on legislation that would restrict gun sales to domestic terrorists and to ban the manufacture and sale of assault weapons, the kind the Uvalde shooter used to blow away a room full of 4th graders in Texas.
And this keeps happening, year after year.
When are Democrats going to hold their fellow Congressional members accountable? Why are parents still grieving over the loss of their children’s lives in order to uphold the rights of something designed to kill and for people to keep killing with?
Where’s the “pro-life” in that?