Yes, it’s time to talk about it. Yes, it’s time to confront our problem. Yes, it’s time to find a solution.
The “mindless menace” of gun violence struck our country again last week with the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL. Seventeen victims, both students and faculty, were cut down by a 19-year-old former student with a history of mental turmoil who somehow managed to legally buy his weapon of mass destruction, an AR-15 assault rifle.
It’s a device with just one purpose: to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.
In the days afterward, however, we’ve witnessed something truly remarkable. The survivors of the Parkland shooting — students, teachers, parents — aren’t retreating into grief. They’re collectively angry at what happened, and how their government failed to prevent it from happening. They’re taking a lead in a nationwide movement to finally get the federal government to do something to beef up our gun laws and keep weapons out of the hands of dangerous people.
“Every single person up here today, all these people should be home grieving,” Douglas student Emma Gonzalez said at a rally in Fort Lauderdale, FL, on Feb. 17. “But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and president can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”
Queens cannot let the Parkland shooting survivors stand alone in this cause — and, if the letters we’ve received in recent days from our readers are any indication, the borough stands with Parkland and wants to be part of the change our country needs.
The counterarguments to gun control just don’t stick
Still, the naysayers are out there committed to keeping the bloody status quo in check. They present the same flawed arguments for doing nothing to stop the next mass killing from taking place.
Here are just a few of their arguments, and our counter-arguments to them:
- “New gun laws won’t work, because criminals will wind up getting weapons anyway.” The existing gun laws have some effectiveness; even with mass shootings, gun homicides have dropped over the last 25 years with the passage of the Brady Law in 1993. Still, more must be done to close loopholes that allow those with mental illnesses, those with prior criminal records and those under 21 years of age to legally purchase firearms.
- “Our country must do more for mental illness rather than gun control.” We agree that America tends to ignore mental health all too often, and more programs are needed to provide treatment to people in distress. It should be noted, however, that mental illness is not exclusive to this country; people suffer from mental illness across the globe, and mass shootings aren’t nearly as frequent in nations with stricter gun laws than our own.
- “What about all those violent video games? Aren’t they a bad influence on our kids?” We’ll leave that question to parents. Again, though, “Call of Duty” is played not just in the United States but also in nations like Canada, the United Kingdom and Japan — where mass shooting frequencies are extremely low. Those countries, not coincidentally, have strong gun laws.
- “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” The infamous words of National Rifle Association President Wayne LaPierre following the Newtown massacre in 2012 were disproven in Parkland, FL. As the Daily News reported, the shooter never encountered the school’s armed security guard. You might ask, “Well, why not arm the teachers or assign more guards?” First, to suggest that the answer to the nation’s gun violence problem is to have more armed Americans is as silly as suggesting that drinking will cure alcoholism, or smoking more cigarettes will cure a smoker’s lung cancer. Second, our schools (at least in Queens) already have enough guards; some even have metal detectors. Must our schools feel like prisons in order to keep our kids safe? That seems to be an unreasonable standard. Third, who’s to say that a student could wind up being killed by a security guard’s errant shot — or that police responding to a mass shooting reporting might wind up shooting a gun-toting faculty member accidentally?
- “Any gun regulation is an assault on our Second Amendment rights.” The amendment itself is vaguely worded, yet is prefaced by the term “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the safety of a free state.” We’re not justices of the Supreme Court, but nothing in that terminology suggests that regulation of any kind is null and void. It should also be noted that the amendment was written at a time when the most deadly gun at the time was a musket that took about 35 seconds to reload and re-fire. The AR-15 can fire 45 rounds a minute.
- “Only liberals and Democrats want gun control.” An October 2017 poll by Politico and Morning Consult found that majorities of both Republicans and Democrats want tougher gun regulations. More than 8 in 10 of all those polled want bans on assault weapons, high-capacity magazines and bump stocks like the one used in the Las Vegas massacre. Let’s also note that in 1996, it was a conservative-led Australian government that enacted tough gun control in the wake of mass shootings there. Those laws led to decreases in gun-related crimes, homicides and suicides in the years since.
‘Thoughts and prayers’ aren’t enough anymore — and never were
The cycle of gun violence in America cannot go on any longer. We’ve run the cycle repeatedly over the last 20+ years, from Columbine to Newtown and all the other points of mass death in between.
After Parkland, we seemed destined to repeat it again — the “thoughts and prayers” tweets from politicians, including those firmly in the pocket of the National Rifle Association, were as predictable as they were revolting.
The outrage from Parkland is something new to the American mass shooting experience; the attention it’s received gives a glimmer of hope that maybe, finally, at long last, something will be done.
But we can’t let Parkland become a forgotten tragedy. Enough gun violence victims have died in vain.
We urge our readers to not only contact their local lawmakers to support new gun regulations, but to also take part in March for Our Lives activities in the weeks ahead. Visit their website to learn more, or the Facebook page for the March 24 demonstration in Manhattan.