Wednesday’s shooting at Parkland High School in Broward County, Florida was the 18th shooting on school grounds this year. That’s 18 shootingss in 45 days. That seems inconceivable, given that in many school districts there have been only 36 days of school so far this year. Except it’s really happening.
At least seventeen were killed at Parkland. Videos are circulating from inside the school — the sound alone is too much too bear. I couldn’t watch or listen all the way through. Yet, children were forced to hide out, hearing this, hearing the murders of their friends and classmates.
For those young people, their families, teachers, first responder, and for all of us, Valentine’s Day is now marked by tragedy. On a day when we celebrate love, when high school kids should have no bigger worry than who sent the secret love letter, they were hiding and running for their lives.
This is not the normal order of things. Parents are not supposed to bury our children. Funeral homes and cemeteries should not be full of small caskets and grieving young people. Schools should not become places our kids fear to go.
And yet. Somehow, it seems a routine has emerged. A horrific shooting occurs, live are lost, thoughts and prayers are offered, and nothing changes. It happens over and over again — in our schools, in churches, in the mall, on the street. In Pa, during the last week of January, there were two mass shootings within days — one in Reading and one in Fayette County.
Every day marks some horrific anniversary. And each time, we wonder, how could this happen again?
These mass shootings often share key elements, most usually an easily accessed semi-automatic rifle and high capacity magazines. From what we know, that pattern holds here the shooter had an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle and multiple magazines.
So, why aren’t we more strictly regulating semi-automatic rifles and high capacity magazines, which were in fact banned from 1994-2004? Why is it so easy to get those weapons and ammunition? In Pennsylvania, you can buy that exact gun in a private sale without a background check.
The majority of Americans favor measures that will keep us safer. Yet, time and again, Congress fails to act. We’re told to wait, it’s not time, it’s unseemly to talk about legislation during a tragedy. This strategy has succeeded for the NRA and the elected officials who do its bidding. It’s a winning strategy for those who are willing to sacrifice your children for the sake of gun sales and a right unfettered by any responsibility or regulation.
But it’s based on a false premise. It’s not too early to talk about action, every time we bury another child, it’s clear we’re so late. How many children have to die before we realize this? How many school shootings will it take to admit that we have a very real problem — a gun violence problem that is at its root a gun problem?
As our hearts are breaking again, we need to find the resolve to break the pattern. We need to stand up and demand more than thoughts and prayers from our elected officials. Thoughts and prayers are fine coming from friends and clergy. Thoughts and prayers coming from politicians without a commitment to act are worthless.
Let’s make a pledge this Valentine’s Day — a pledge based on love for our children and each other. Don’t stand for empty platitudes and false narratives. Demand answers. Tweet back at those offering thoughts and prayers and ask what they’re going to do to keep your kids safe. And if they can’t or won’t answer, let them know what you’re going to do. Because ultimately, it’s up to the voters to break the pattern.
Shira Goodman is the Executive Director of CeaseFirePA, a statewide organization working with Pennsylvanians all over the Commonwealth to take a stand against gun violence.www.ceasefirepa.org