More than 150,000 U.S. school students have endured a senseless shooting on their campuses since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. In the first 47 days of 2018 alone, no fewer than 18 schools have devolved into shooting grounds and killing fields.
Clearly, mass shootings on school property have become all-too-familiar patches in the fabric of American life. Even Wednesday’s grisly attack at a high school in Parkland, Fla., that killed at least 17 people and ranks among the 10 most deadly in U.S. history, rolled out the same old predictable plot lines.
A sniper armed with military assault weaponry enters a public place. He lets loose round after round and magazine after magazine of lethal force.
Mass hysteria erupts. Men, women and children scatter. Many fall to their deaths. The mentally-troubled triggerman is ultimately apprehended.
A community, state and nation mourn. Americans from the president on down offer well-intentioned but grossly insufficient “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and their loved ones.
Then, within a period of months, weeks or days, a return engagement of the same tragedy rocks the nation anew.
Many might rightly argue that as a nation, we have become desensitized to this routine cycle of day-in, day-out horror. By extension, many would argue that America’s 50.7 million school children must accept the new reality of living under the constant threat of harm from a deranged madman every time they step foot into a classroom.
We – as do a majority of Americans – find that notion totally unacceptable.
Poll after poll show a majority of U.S. citizens strongly support sensible gun laws. Some proposals call for stronger background checks with mental health evaluations and waiting periods. Some would require regular checks and updates of databases that encompass criminal histories and military courts-martial.
Still others would ban devices such as the so-called “bump stocks” used by the Las Vegas shooter who killed five dozen people last fall.
Such regulations would do nothing to dilute the legitimate gun-ownership rights of advocates of the Second Amendment but could make at least a small dent in the day-in day-out carnage in public places.
But in the face of the increasing intensity and quickening pace of mass shootings, Congress continues to roll over and play dead.
It is long past time for federal legislators to awaken and cease taking marching orders from the National Rifle Association. Members of the Republican majorities in the House and Senate must instead begin listening to the voice of the people.
LITTLE HOPE FROM TRUMP
The administration of President Donald J. Trump, however, inspires little hope of moving in the direction of reform. In his nationally televised address Thursday on the Parkland bloodbath, the chief executive avoided even the mention of guns, let alone reasonable and concrete proposals to better regulate their sale and use.
That, of course, is par for the course for a president whose sole foray into gun oversight was signing a resolution blocking a rule from President Barack Obama’s administration to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally disabled.
By default, then, it’s up to Congress to muster up the requisite will and courage to enact reasonable controls. Its track record, however, disappoints. Last year, for example, the GOP majority failed to eke out passage of a measure that would have banned firearms sales to those on terrorist watch lists.
One point of light, however, can be seen in the passion and determination of Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., whose own state was rocked by the unspeakable Sandy Hook Elementary shootings five years ago.
On the floor of the Congress on Wednesday, Murphy laid the blame squarely where it belongs – on many of his peers in the House and Senate: “We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.”
Let that direct indictment serve as a springboard for courage and constructive action. Inaction no longer can be tolerated as acceptable.