It was a sort of a rainy Memorial Day weekend where I live this year. The playgrounds were empty, and the red and yellow sun-umbrellas in the city’s beer gardens were drenched. But it was a springtime kind of rainy—where the downpours and sudden hail were punctuated by brief, brilliant moments of clear blue sky and sun.
Normally, my family would be bummed to have a holiday weekend like this, all cooped up. We like to get out for a hike, maybe shoot a few baskets in the driveway. But, this weekend, it was fine to be inside. Even welcome. After the news of the past week, it felt safe to have our family all in one place, quiet and indoors.
Our kids are all school age kids. Our daughter is finishing middle school while the boys are both in elementary.
Cynicism and Denial
Our older son is 9, and a grade below the kids who were gunned down in Uvalde last Tuesday. He’s in the third grade now, while they were in fourth. He loves video games, and FaceTiming with his friends. He plays academy soccer. He’s not always nice to his little brother, but he usually is. As a general rule, he’s a kind and generous kid.
According to The Gun Violence Archive, there have been 229 mass shootings thus far this year. 229, and it’s only the end of May.
In 2021, there were 692.
Over the weekend, The New York Times published the following as the cover for their Sunday Review. Against a black background, fifteen times they repeated: “Authorities said the gunman was able to obtain the weapons legally.” Under each, another casualty list. Uvalde, 21 killed. Buffalo, 10 killed. Parkland, 17 killed. Las Vegas, 60 killed.
The idea is to push back on the cynical claim made by GOP zealots that if we adopt common sense gun policies, we’ll only succeed in keeping guns out of the hands of law abiding citizens. That criminals will still get them. It’s a claim that’s been made especially hollow by last week’s massacre in Uvalde, because that killer made attempts to get guns as a 17 year old, but failed, and ultimately waited until he turned 18 so he could buy his weapons legally.
Good Guys with Guns
Our daughter is 14. She likes to collect vinyl records. 70s era classics, mostly. I can’t explain why. She wears David Bowie t-shirts, and the posters on her bedroom walls are of Bowie, Queen, Fleetwood Mac.
Last week, we had an impromptu dance party in her bedroom. She wanted to play us the newest addition to her vinyl collection: ABBA. Charmingly, she seemed to think she was introducing us to them. But maybe she only meant the boys.
Of the 17 people massacred at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on February 14th, 2018, seven were 14 years old.
Speaking at the NRA Convention in Houston over the weekend, one of the two Senators representing the families of Uvalde, US Senator Ted Cruz, thought it was pertinent to pose this rhetorical question: “Why do politicians advocate for policies they know won’t stop these horrific crimes?”
He’s talking about Progressives. He means gun control, greater regulation, background checks and assault weapons bans. Policies that we know actually do work, because heaps and hills and mountains of practical evidence have shown that they work in countries across the globe. Countries where, let’s put it plainly, parents can send their kids to school without worrying they might be shot to death while they’re there.
Rhetorically, and with a face meant to win himself cheers from an NRA audience, Cruz asked why politicians advocate for policies they know won’t work.
Then, he advocated (yet again) for a policy that’s been proven over and over not to work.
Cruz claimed once again that the solution to stopping bad guys with guns is “good guys with guns,” despite all evidence to the contrary.
Leaving aside the immediate memory of those 19 Uvalde police officers (whose response to being outgunned by an 18 year old with an AR-15 was to take cover and allow innocent children to die for over an hour), let’s instead look to the above-linked study. It’s a cross-sectional study of 133 school shootings, and it reports that “Results […] show armed guards were not associated with significant reduction in rates of injuries; in fact, controlling for the aforementioned factors of location and school characteristics, the rate of deaths was 2.83 times greater in schools with an armed guard present.”
Yet somehow the GOP still believes this is a winning message.
Decades of these lies. Decades of failed Republican gun policies, of a partisan Supreme Court upholding their disastrous policies, and of mass shooting after mass shooting. Yet the GOP cynically believes they can still get away with these arguments. That we won’t notice their talk is insincere and in service to a status quo that has made them rich and powerful. A GOP that believes we’ll swallow these same old lies while our children are gunned down by the dozen.
But over the weekend, through a break in the rain and the hail, I saw a clear, brilliant vision of the truth: Refusal by these cynical politicians to support even the most common sense gun control policies is tantamount to them choosing a future plagued by gun violence for all of us. One with hundreds upon hundreds of mass murders, each and every year.