Want to know what rage feels like?
It’s waking on a Wednesday morning on a school day as the cable news talking heads sift through the latest on the shooting at a Texas elementary school that left 21 people dead, most of them children, and looking at your daughter as she gets ready for her final day of classes of the year, and saying, “Please, God. Not today.”
Want to know what it feels like to have your heart break?
It’s kissing your daughter goodbye, reminding her to stay safe, having her look back at you, and listen as she tells you, with perfect clarity, that she’s grown numb to the incidents of carnage that have made mass casualty drills a reality for an entire generation of American schoolchildren.
But then, I’m one of the lucky ones.
I got to kiss my daughter goodbye. For too many families in Texas, and in Buffalo, in Philadelphia, in Pittsburgh, in every American city where our pathological love affair with firearms has destroyed lives and ripped families apart, there will never be another good morning. There will never be another good night. There will never be another happy birthday.
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And it doesn’t have to be this way. That is the most heartbreaking and maddening thing of all.
At a time when a clear majority of Americans say they want Congress to enact stricter gun violence reduction measures, bills that would do just that are bottled up in the narrowly divided U.S. Senate.
Insanity, as has been famously remarked, is doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result. And that is the story of our lawmakers’ ongoing inability to pass even the simplest of gun violence reduction measures.
And, then, under our very noses, we’re hit with another Sandy Hook.
And we’ll wring our hands. We’ll offer our prayers for the dead and our sympathy to the families. And, past being prologue, nothing will change. And weeks, or maybe even days later, we’ll be back in the same place, wondering how such tragedies can occur in a nation where they happen every day.
That’s not just insanity; it’s utter inhumanity, as a wave of social media memes since the shooting have made clear.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
And it starts with you. It starts with me. It starts with every one of us, standing up, and saying in a loud and clear voice that we’ve had enough.
Make it clear to the people seeking your vote that if they don’t support expanded background checks and closing the gun show loophole, they don’t get your vote.
Tell them that if they don’t back an assault weapons ban or bans on expanded magazines, they don’t get your vote. Make it clear that if they don’t support eliminating the filibuster so that these bills, or bills expanding voting rights, can get an actual up or down vote in the U.S. Senate, then they’re not getting your vote either.
Not one of these measures will infringe on the rights of law-abiding gun owners. Anyone who says differently isn’t being straight with you. Even the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in the 2008 Heller decision, said that while the Second Amendment clearly allows for Americans to keep and bear arms, that right comes with some limits.
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited,” Scalia wrote, even as he sketched out exceptions, saying that ”the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”
On Tuesday, Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat who represented the families of Sandy Hook when he served in the House, begged his colleagues to reach common ground on reform measures.
“I’m here on this floor to beg — to literally get down on my hands and knees — to beg my colleagues. Find a path forward here. Work with us to find a way to pass laws that make this less likely,” he said.
We should not have to beg for the answers that are staring us in the face. We should not have to beg for parents to have the right to wake up in the morning and not worry that today might be their child’s last day on Earth.
We should not have to beg so that Black people in Buffalo can go to the grocery store safely. We should not have to beg so that the residents of Philadelphia, of Pittsburgh, of Harrisburg, of every American city where these senseless tragedies unfold daily can live safely in their own neighborhoods.
Beg? That time is done. Demand it. And don’t settle for any other answer but “yes.”
John L. Micek is editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.