In the aftermath of the shooting deaths of fourteen students and three staff members at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is it finally time we ask what our federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is doing to keep our children and grandchildren “secure” from being shot in the schools we send them to every day?
These are the names and ages of our fellow Americans, the real people shot and killed at their Florida high school: Alyssa Alhadeff (14), Scott Beigel (35), Martin Duque Anguiano (14), Nicholas Dworet (17), Aaron Feis (37), Jamie Gutenberg (14), Chris Hixon (49), Luke Hayer (15), Cara Loughran (14), Gina Montallo (14), Joaquin Oliver (17), Alaina Petty (14), Meadow Pollack (18), Helena Ramsay (17), Alex Schachter (14), Carmen Schentrup (16), and Peter Wang (15).
Our own DHS website touts its “vital mission” as being “to secure the nation from the many threats we face.” Earlier on its website the agency state’s “[t]he vision of homeland security is to ensure a homeland that is safe, secure, and resilient against terrorism and other hazards.” It seems clear to me that we face the real threat of young white guys with AR-15 assault rifles shooting our children and grandchildren. If we still want to have an argument whether such madness constitutes “terrorism,” then let’s at least agree it’s “other hazards.”
In 2017, DHS was allocated a discretionary budget of $40.6 billion. With 240,000 employees, DHS is the third largest cabinet department after the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. The shooting of our children with assault rifles by home grown terrorists warrants DHS’s attention and funding. What “other hazards” does the evidence show as any greater?
Republican representatives now in charge of all branches of government need to think more creatively and realistically about where we actually need “homeland security.” Almost 17 years after 9-11, with the Trump administration’s flagrant racist attacks on Muslims and people of color, poorly disguised to keep us safe, we are again being told we need to fear Muslims and people of color. Our national security is at stake, we are told. We need to be “vigilant.”
Juxtapose that message of fearing Muslims and people of color with all the senseless slaughtering of our children and grandchildren in the “safety” of their own schools that we continue to allow to happen – without any change in gun laws. All the senseless terrorism being perpetrated by non-Muslim white guys. The 19 year old confessed shooter who slaughtered 17 people had legally bought an assault rifle (when he was 18). This, as we continue to be vigilant about having a law in place that prevents him from buying alcohol until he’s 21. Other hazards.
The Washington Post recently wrote about misinformation being circulated by Everytown for Gun Safety, a group working for gun safety that tweeted that there have already been 18 school shootings only 6 weeks into 2018. Everytown for Gun Safety tweeted “[t]his is the 18th school shooting in U.S. in 2018.” The article then lifted up how often that tweet was “liked” or retweeted.
I found it sad and ironic that this needs to be clarified. Some of the shootings allegedly being falsely claimed as school shootings included a 31 year old man reportedly armed and suicidal who shot himself in a school parking lot, where the school had been closed for seven months, and accidental discharges of firearms in schools. The Post article did state that some groups say the correct number of school shootings so far in 2018 is more like eight, but everyone can agree on, well, six. That’s one school shooting per week. One too many.
The Post suggested that the statistics being touted by Everytown for Gun Safety were problematic because gun rights supporters would use such misinformation to beat gun safety advocates over the head when they try, yet again, to secure common sense gun control legislation. Maybe. But having such a conversation about the “correct” number of school shootings in 2018 seems both haunting and tragic to me.
The Post article highlighted “that trends are growing more dire.” That includes a study by the World Health Organization published in the American Journal of Medicine “that found that, among high-income nations, 91 percent of children younger than 15 who were killed by bullets lived in the United States.” The Post article reported that “[o]n average, two dozen children are shot every day in the United States, and in 2016 more youths were killed by gunfire – 1,637 – than during any other year this millennium.”
Whether it’s six or eight shootings that’s “correct” does not matter at all to the victims or their loved ones, whose lives were ripped apart, forever. Let’s comfort victims and their families by telling them, yet again, . . . they’re in our thoughts and prayers. I am crying as I try not to throw up. We’re not just failing our children, our lack of will in passing common sense gun legislation is literally killing them.
This morning I watched as parents of the Florida high school students murdered in their school, and students who “survived,” literally begged lawmakers to take action by enacting common sense gun control legislation. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, however, was not going to be rushed into action, stating that gun restrictions would not have prevented the mass shooting and slaughter of children at a high school in his own state. Except, they would have. Preventing the purchase of assault rifles and preventing those under age 21 from purchasing firearms would have saved lives in Florida.
Rubio’s measured response might be influenced by the $3.3 million in contributions he’s received (so far) from the National Rifle Association (NRA). Of course it was. The NRA and its money doesn’t just talk with politicians, it screams. And Jesus weeps. And we weep. . . again. . .and again. I hope all who call themselves Evangelical Christians, hyper vigilant in protecting their man made Second Amendment rights, will ask themselves where the higher commandment of “[t]hou shall not kill” fits into their hearts.
When I was a candidate for the state Senate in North Dakota, and later when I was running for reelection, I received a questionnaire from the NRA regarding my views on gun control and the Second Amendment. In no uncertain terms, the NRA made it clear to me that if I did not return their questionnaire that they would let voters in my legislative district know I was anti Second Amendment rights and I would be given an “F” rating. I received an “F” rating. We need more legislators willing to not care about NRA ratings and say “F” the NRA ratings.
When will our fellow Americans, of all creeds and colors, have seen enough carnage? When will our hearts let us see that our neighbors’ children and grandchildren being slaughtered in our public schools are all of our children shamelessly being slaughtered? When will we, as parents and grandparents, as voters, Republican, Democrat or Independent, rise up and use our massive and powerful collective voice and power at the polls to unelect politicians unwilling to pass common sense gun legislation? My hope is in 2018.
It was telling this morning as one of the networks showed footage, “highlights,” of its upcoming Sunday public affairs show. They touted their special guests, members of Congress not running for reelection, who were now voicing their strong concern about the dire need for something to be done to effectuate common sense gun control legislation. Their concern is too little, too late.
Paul Ryan, House Republican Speaker, rejected a call to create a special congressional committee to study gun violence in the aftermath of the Florida shooting that left 17 dead and many others wounded. Ryan noted the House was to observe a moment of silence and flags at the Capitol were at half staff.
Silence. That’s what’s being offered by Republicans who control the House and Senate. It’s time we end that silence with the noise of fed up Americans actively and intentionally voting such tone deaf politicians out of office when we have the opportunity to do just that in November 2018. Whose in?
Some things have to be worth standing up for and risking a reelection loss, like the lives of our children and grandchildren . . .and our country’s soul.