Wednesday’s Florida high school massacre marked the 18th school shooting of 2018. Just 45 days into the New Year we have had a school shooting with our children dying every 60 hours. Seventeen lives ended yesterday and as of Thursday, another five are in the hospital with “life-threatening” wounds, so the toll could climb even higher.
Immediately our elected officials quickly tweeted and spoke of their “Thoughts and Prayers” to the families of those affected by this deadly catastrophe. I’m sure that will be a big comfort to all those whose sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, and survivors who were affected so horrendously by this tragedy.
Empty words spoken by empty suits whose only goal is to serve those who pay them. And I do not mean paid by the citizens who elected them to the offices they hold, and I, to be very clear, mean serving those such as the National Rifle Association, whose money lines their pockets. The NRA has donated millions to politicians to not only not strengthen gun control laws but to actually weaken the existing ones we have.
I celebrated Valentine’s Day with my 8-year-old granddaughter. A day that we typically show our love and appreciation for those around us. She took delight in showing her grandmother and me the Valentine cards she got from classmates. She told us how much fun it was at the small party they had in the classroom and about the treats they received. And in my mind all I could think about was how devastated the families of the dead children and adults were on this day. How every Valentine’s Day from now on it will be a reminder of how their loved ones were taken from them so violently. How the children and adults who were there will forever have this day of terror burned into their memories, reliving a nightmare day after day for the rest of their lives.
And all we offer are “Thoughts and Prayers.”
I am not against owning guns. I own two myself. I got my first gun from my father when I was 9-years-old. He and my grandfather and uncles taught me how to handle it safely. They taught me to hunt rabbits, squirrels, pheasant. We did not kill for sport, we killed to eat. We did not take trophies and leave the remains for the scavengers. We ate what we killed. I enlisted in the Army four months after the fall of Saigon.
The Army then taught me to kill another human being, though thankfully I never had to find out if I could. I carried an M-16 and learned what devastation it could cause. And after the military, I never wanted to own one again. Not because I was afraid of it but because I respected it. I knew that this was a weapon not meant for hunting food, but its only purpose was to maim and kill another human being.
Since Sandy Hook in December of 2012 where 20 small children and six teachers were slaughtered, there have been over 1,100 mass shootings with more than 1,200 dead and 4,500 wounded. And all we do is offer “Thoughts and Prayers.” This does nothing to protect these children from a large lead projectile traveling at 3,000 feet per second, ripping into their small bodies, tearing away large pieces of flesh, shattering bone and skull, shredding hearts, lungs, brains. This does nothing to console a mother and father who’s 6-year-old had his or her body so devastated by bullets that they cannot view their child to say goodbye. This does nothing to console a grieving wife or husband whose loved one died shielding children from the devastation their own bodies suffered in their selfless acts of humanity.
The politicians say after each act of terror like this that now is not the time to discuss solutions, we need more facts. No, you are wrong. Now is the time. After the Vegas shooting they all said we need to ban bump stocks, they never did. After the Texas church shooting they said we need stronger and more complete background checks, they never did. And they never will.
As long as lobbyists and big money donors control our politicians, we stand no chance of change. As long as they feel protecting the rights of others to own weapons that serve no purpose but to inflict mass destruction are more important than our children’s lives, we stand no chance of change. I want no more “Thought and Prayers,” I want my grandchildren’s lives to be what matters to them. As much as they matter to me and I hope their children matter to them. But will they listen?
Steve Creed is a Fayette County resident.