Sensitivity Warning: This post is about the gun violence that has been plaguing America for years, but recently just minutes away from my family home where I’m currently visiting. Although it’s not my typical travel content I do believe that this is a worldwide issue.
Gun violence is a global epidemic. The U.S. is at the forefront of atrocities with a school shooting on average every 2.5 days of 2018. Nowhere else in the world is this a common occurrence, except for war-torn countries. Each and every politician that accepts donations from the National Rifle Association (NRA) has blood money in their pockets and on their hands. President Donald Trump received $21M in donations from the NRA during the presidential election, their largest financial backing of a candidate to date. Florida Senator Marco Rubio (R) has received over $3.3M from the NRA. His statement regarding the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School? “Today is that terrible day you pray never comes.” Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) brags about signing pro-gun bills and has an A+ rating by the NRA. After the Orlando shooting at Pulse nightclub, where 50 people were murdered, he told CNN, “let’s remember, the Second Amendment has been around for over 200 years. That’s not what killed innocent people; evil killed innocent people.” That may be the case but evil people have access to deadly weapons, and that’s what killed people. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence gave Florida an “F” on its gun laws in 2016. These shameful Americans ought to put their thoughts, prayers, dollars, and guns, where their mouths are.
It’s no surprise that an AR-15 assault-style rifle was used in the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas. The same gun was used during the shootings at the Route 91 country music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. All are some of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history, due to the same device. The tiny bodies of the victims at Sandy Hook were so destroyed from the assault weapon that they couldn’t even be transported to the hospital. This weapon of destruction was banned in the U.S. until the ban expired in 2004 and have done nothing but wreck havoc since.
In Florida it is easier to buy an AR-15 than a handgun–the age requirement for an AR-15 is 18, but a handgun is 21. Legislators in the Florida House passed the first committee for HB 621, a bill that makes it legal to carry guns on K-12 school grounds. The shooter at Stoneman Douglas reportedly purchased his assault rifle just three days after being expelled from the high school for bringing bullets to school in his backpack. He returned and took the lives of 17 innocent people, and injured many more. The shooter, whose name I chose to omit in order not to glorify his actions, had a reputation and disturbing history, which officials including the FBI were well aware of. He was diagnosed with mental illness, the police were often called to his home, and he made numerous threats to others. None of this was questioned when he bought the military-style rifle. How is this acceptable? Those who were aware have failed the students of Stoneman Douglas. This tragedy was entirely preventable. This isn’t only a gun control issue. The entire system set in place to keep these children safe is broken. Our politicians are failing us. Our laws are failing us. Our police force is failing us. Our educators shouldn’t have to be our bodyguards and first responders.
The students who survived the massacre at Stoneman Douglas are determined to make their school shooting the last. They’re not hoping and praying in vain. They’ve been standing up in front of millions through media interviews to send a clear message–enough is enough. Today I witnessed their strength first hand along with 600 other protestors at the Ft. Lauderdale Federal Courthouse. Their ability to articulate their pain and power just days after this life-altering experience is astonishing. They spoke to the crowd, and to the world, and let us know that they’re resilient, determined, and will not be quiet. Their sentiments were echoed by numerous politicians and educators, but the voice of these teenagers stood out from the rest. The Stoneman Douglas students who survived the shooting stayed at the rally after the politicians, speakers, and crowd had left. They gathered together and chanted through tears with a single demand, “no more guns.”
We failed the students of Stoneman Douglas by not immediately passing laws to once again make assault rifles illegal for civilians in America after Sandy Hook. I’m hopeful that we’ve finally learned our lesson. I believe these children when they say this will be the last school shooting. Each American citizen must demand that our elected officials at the federal, state and local level introduce and vote for legislation that eliminates weapons of mass destruction from civilian access. Demand rigid regulations and background checks for gun purchases. Don’t wait until you lose a loved one to gun violence. Don’t forget the teenagers that died with the next media furry. Continue to fight for common-sense gun reform. Assault weapons belong in a war zone, not schools, clubs, churches, and concerts. During the midterm elections don’t vote for any candidates that have accepted donations from the NRA. To do so would tarnish the memories of those who died this week and in so many other occurrences of gun violence in our nation.
If you’re wondering what you can do to honor the students of Stoneman Douglas head to Gen Progress which has made it simple to take action and contact House and Senate members to urge them to reject pro-gun bills with a single click. Call your local lawmakers, senators, and congressional representatives to demand gun control legislation. You can support the travel expense of K-9 comfort dogs that have been sent to Parkland, Florida counseling centers and vigils here. Organize and attend rallies to support firearm safety legislation. Not one more is only possible if we all do our part. The Broward Education Foundation has launched a GoFundMe page to funds to aid the victims and their families. The campaign raised over $1.3M as of Saturday evening and will certainly reach the goal of $2M in donations. There have been fraudulent fundraising pages, but the Broward Sheriff confirmed the GoFundMe is the official place to make donations.
In Florida, you can donate blood, especially if you have the universal blood type O-negative, use One Blood to make an appointment and find a drive. My sister is organizing a blood drive soon in Broward County, so if you’ve never donated blood before and are a bit scared like I am, come join us, we can do it together.
What will you do to protect our children and not guns?