My wife, Nancy, and I were visiting family and friends in Florida on Valentine’s Day when news broke of the massacre of 17 students and teachers in the community of Parkland, recently named the safest city in Florida, which was less than two hours away from where we were staying.
This news hit us especially hard since it has only been five years since the Sandy Hook massacre that killed 26 elementary school children and teachers. We watched the anguished cries of families and their friends that were broadcast non-stop on local and national news.
The unthinkable had happened once again. The details were eerily similar because this shooter was also a disturbed teenager using an assault weapon with multiple clips of deadly ammunition to slaughter innocent children and their teachers who tried to shield them.
Distraught families and surviving classmates of those who died on February 14 held news conferences and meetings with elected officials asking: “How could this happen once again?”
They directly blamed the elected leaders of their city, state and even the president for not protecting them. After all, isn’t the safety of our school children fundamental to our society? Aren’t children entitled to life? Why hasn’t this been remedied? Why are disturbed teenagers — or any individual with a history of violence — allowed to easily acquire weapons of war that lead to massive human carnage?
Most of the answers these families heard were pathetically weak and ineffectual. And, characteristically, the National Rifle Association blamed the tragedy on everything but guns.
Even the president couldn’t bring himself to say the word gun in his remarks. At best, token solutions and timid half-measures were offered. The NRA has resisted and thwarted just about every commonsense proposal (supported by a majority of Americans) that has been offered since Sandy Hook: meaningful background checks on gun purchases, reasonable waiting periods, banning of rapid fire assault type weapons, raising the age for gun purchases, barring purchases by buyers with a high risk of violence, closing loopholes on gun purchases, and sharing data bases on background checks across state lines.
The NRA has been against them all. The states that have fought the NRA and enacted gun safety measures, have in many cases, seen a reduction of mass shootings. The majority of the American public is in support of common sense gun safety regulations and policies geared to protect children from gun fatalities
How has the NRA developed such a stranglehold on the gun issue?
They have bought the unfettered loyalty of elected officials at all levels of government with campaign contributions and threats to primary anyone who steps out of line. The NRA has total loyalty to the profits-over-life gun industry. Instead of promoting gun safety policies and the use of available technology to reduce gun deaths, they fiercely resist even the most obvious gun safety measures with their phony mantra that the government is trying to take all guns away.
Yet many of our police departments and military veterans have spoken out against this nonsensical statement from the NRA, which, frankly would be better named the National Killing Association (NKA). They should be ashamed.
But this time we may have finally reached a tipping point in the battle with the NRA (NKA) and the gun industry.
Students have entered the fight. They are unafraid, they are passionate, they are truthful, and they are articulate. High School students, together with their families and others dedicated to this fight are organizing to stop the killing now. They are demanding that their elected officials take meaningful action to stop the killing madness that plagues our country. They demand safety in our schools and pledge to oust political leaders who do not heed their call to “end the violence now.” This is a fight worth having. And just like another American war — the war for justice and civil rights — it was the youth who led the way for a better future and a better country.
I believe this is a cause worth fighting for — our children’s and grandchildren’s lives depend on it.
Michael S. Rohde is a former mayor and city councilor of Meriden.