by Tony Wyman
No matter what I write, no matter how much I plead with readers that we not allow the deaths in Texas yesterday to be in vain by allowing our discussion of the problem of school shootings to degrade into a pointless, futile shouting match over the Second Amendment, that is likely what will happen.
Because we care more about guns – loving them or hating them – than we do about kids.
I suppose that isn’t really a fair statement. Outside of the most deranged and extreme zealots on both sides of the gun debate, we do care more about kids than guns, at least the kids we know, the ones who aren’t abstracts. But we don’t care enough.
If we did, we would have reacted to Parkland, three months ago, the same way we reacted to 9/11. We would have mobilized the nearly limitless resources this country has, we would have marshaled the genius of this nation, the brilliance of minds that sent men to the moon on 29 July 1969 in a tin can full of vacuum tubes and gigantic, American-sized balls, and joined the Parkland kids saying “Never Again.”
More Than One Per Week
Twenty-nine people. That’s how many students and teachers have been shot and killed in American schools this year. (This number might actually be 31.) From January through May 18th in the years 2000 to 2017 there were 36 deaths total over that seven year period. There has been more than one school shooting on average per week since the beginning of the year where someone has been killed or injured. More than one per week.
Yet, there is no national commission, as there was after 9/11, studying why school shootings are becoming so commonplace. Why not?
We have funds available to study just about everything in this country. If a snail darter hiccups in a stream somewhere, a battalion of government experts descends out of the heavens, sets up shop, and studies why.
But, despite President Trump, on 23 March 2018, signing a bill that allows the Centers for Disease Control to finally begin studying gun violence in this country, something that was prohibited by the Dickey Amendment, a 1996 provision lobbied for by the NRA, that said “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) may be used to advocate or promote gun control,” to date, there is no commission empaneled to look into the crisis.
On 9/11, a day that is forever etched into the hearts of all Americans, 2977 good people lost their lives (I don’t include the 19 terrorists in the casualty total, despite them being listed among the dead). Several of those people were friends of my family, men from FDNY who died bravely defending their city against a cruel and evil enemy.
10 Times the Victims of 9/11 Are Shot to Death Annually
Since passage of the Dickey Amendment, more than 200 times the number who died on 9/11 have been shot in this country, more than 10 times are killed every year. Yet, thanks to political pressure, our federal government is doing nothing to determine the root causes of this violence. And without a complete and comprehensive understanding of why so many Americans are being shot and killed, we can’t come up with a national response to the epidemic, we can’t mount a 9/11-style campaign that makes our nation as safe as we’ve made our airports.
I understand why gun rights advocates are concerned about a federal government study that could determine that the only solution to gun violence is to restrict gun ownership. I understand the passion that many have for protecting the Second Amendment. I feel the same way they do about the First Amendment and, like them, would take up arms to defend the Constitution against any enemy, foreign or domestic. In fact, as a military officer, I took an oath that required me to do just that.
As unfashionable as it may be in this cynical time of “witch hunts” and “fake news,” we, as citizens of a republic founded on the rule of law, must have faith that our system of government will protect our rights, as enumerated in the Constitution.
We must, certainly, hold our elected and appointed officials accountable to abide by the oath they took to defend and uphold the Constitution.
And, they must be compelled to take their role in defense of our rights seriously, to hold that role as a sacred duty – one answerable not just to law and the people, but to God, Himself.
If, however, we approach the crisis of gun violence in America from the perspective that the government is corrupt, untrustworthy and poised, eager, to take away our rights, and that the only thing holding them back is the arsenal of weapons owned by private citizens, we will get nowhere.
The conversation will become an angry debate between gun rights purists, who see a Waco-style assault on America’s freedom waiting in the wings for the right moment to be launched and gun restriction zealots who believe every firearms owner is another David Koresh.
And kids just trying to figure out trigonometry and how to conjugate verbs will be caught in the crossfire.