By Shelley Murphy
My intention to write a happy-go-lucky column about back-to-school fun faltered when I awoke to the horrific breaking news: two mass shootings in fewer than 15 hours.
Again, the weight on my heart is too heavy to measure. Terror is stalking tight-knit towns across America.
The Ohio shooting occurred in a downtown entertainment district where people gather and socialize at bars and restaurants. It’s one of the safest places in the region, according to Mayor Whaley of Dayton.
The El Paso shooting struck families in a Walmart enjoying the fun of back-to-school shopping and commemorating the milestone of a new school year. Instead, they land on a list marking the 250th mass shooting of 2019.
When this column runs in a week, or two, will we have forgotten Dayton and El Paso?
Will the script move predictably forward with makeshift memorials giving way to candlelight vigils leading to grief-stricken funerals?
Will lawmakers return to Washington, D.C., where our elected leaders vote on gun legislation?
Will these two gruesome massacres be our nation’s defining moment?
How many victims must be slaughtered before we act, and how many families must be ripped apart?
I sit with more questions than answers.
But one thing I do know is this: thoughts and prayers is a tired cliché; we need swift action and sensible response.
On April 20, 1999, the shooters at Columbine High School in Colorado killed 12 students, one teacher, and wounded more than 20 others.
The gunman opening fire at Sandy Hook Elementary School killed 26 people, including 20 children ages 6 and 7 years old, in addition to six staff members. At Virginia Tech University, 32 people died after being gunned down on their campus.
Yet, we fail to act.
A student’s back-to-school checklist should not include bulletproof backpacks and protective clothing, but the demand for both is on the rise.
Creators of the Wonder Hoodie are struggling to keep up with orders for their bulletproof hoodies, priced from $450.
ArmorMe manufactures bulletproof backpacks and suggests to parents that they practice shooting scenarios with their kids, including how to position the bulletproof bag as a shield.
For students starting a new school year, one of the first lessons they’ll learn won’t involve reading, writing or arithmetic; instead, they’ll learn to shelter in place and participate in active-shooter drills.
They’ll be instructed to look around their classrooms to locate doors and windows to use as emergency exits. Children as young as 4 years old will be taught to hide in darkened closets and bathrooms to escape violent sociopaths.
Our children live in fear—afraid to go to school; they don’t fear failing an exam, but they do fear facing a shooter.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, says, “There isn’t a parent in this country that isn’t terrified.”
Gun violence is an epidemic, a public-health crisis. Every day, our defenseless children are being shot and killed.
Yes, the issue of gun safety is polarizing, but are we split on the issue of keeping our kids safe?
There exists no place for assault-style military weapons on the streets of a civil society. It defies common sense.
Semi-automatic assault rifles are weapons of war designed to kill, to tear into flesh and pulverize tissue. The heroic efforts of first responders and skilled surgeons can’t stop the bleeding.
A U.S. Gallup poll was conducted in October 2017, several days after 58 people were killed in a mass shooting in Las Vegas. Gallup randomly conducted telephone interviews, and of the adults surveyed, 96% favored requiring background checks for all gun purchases.
We can end gun violence before it ends more innocent lives. And, if we don’t, we fail our children and future generations.
We must do better; we must make America safe again.
Visit www.momsdemandaction.org to help end gun violence.
Shelley Murphy has lived in San Clemente with her husband for the past 21 years, where she raised her two sons. She’s a freelance writer and has been a contributor to the San Clemente Times since 2006.