Parkland was named Florida’s safest city last year yet on Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday it became the site of one of deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. It also became the latest statistic and moment when leaders offered their thoughts and prayers.
At least 17 students and staff tragically and needlessly lost their lives during what a non-profit group said was the 18th school shooting in 2018 (a number that is disputed).
This is an issue on multiple fronts – the availability of guns, increase of mental health needs, and the inability to properly identify and address threats and risks.
It’s been said no sane person commits this kind of senseless brutality. Yet so many sane people draw an immoveable line in the sand about any intrusion on Second Amendment rights. And based on the initial reporting, so many said that they were not surprised by the identity of the alleged shooter.
Something is wrong when we allow this to continue with such frequency and such little action. Something is wrong when schools prepare for deadly scenarios like this through drills and yet so many innocent lives are still lost. Something is wrong when threats were made, and social media posts essentially telegraphed what was to come.
My heart aches for the victims of this latest tragedy. As a CT senator said, this is a consequence of inaction by Congress. If not now, then when?
It is a question that many continue to ask. In fact, Newsday printed an editorial that simply listed 20 acts of violence at our country’s schools – shootings that claimed more than 150 lives – and asked where’s next?
The next is potentially everywhere – not just in our schools, but in our communities. After all, someone is shot in our country every 4 minutes and 44 seconds according to the most recent data available. According to research, about 16 children a day are hospitalized due to firearm injuries.
It is not enough to send condolences or prayers – we need to send a message that this is not acceptable and that we will stop the proliferation of killing machines like that used in Florida. After all, the AR-15 has become the preferred gun of choice for mass shooters, including those in Las Vegas, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Sandy Hook, San Bernardino and Colorado cinema shootings.
We also need to work together to address our mental health crisis. Not everyone with mental health needs will resort to violence, but far too many suffer in silence without seeking treatment. In our schools, 1 in 5 students are dealing with a mental health issue and many more are dealing with anxiety – something that events like this could exacerbate.
Let’s face it, our country is in a period of considerable divisiveness. It is time that we set aside politics to do what is right – and to prevent the next person from killing as many people as they can or from someone dying from chance by being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
After all, we have been here before. Think back to the horror and disgust when 20 first graders and six teachers were murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary five years ago.
We mourned and moved on. Yet, nearly 300 shootings have occurred in schools and larger, more deadly attacks have taken place in other settings, such as concerts and malls, since then.
Of the 30 deadliest shootings in the U.S. dating back to 1949, 19 have occurred in the past decade. Columbine was shocking in 1999 but today it is no longer in the top 10.
Some experts have argued there has been too much focus on school shootings compared to other emergencies. Statistically, the chances of a school shooting is low compared to other incidents, but events like this show how this can happen anywhere and why we prepare for the unthinkable.
Five years ago, my predecessor Jim Baldwin lamented how we “communally engage in three ever-so predictable steps” following mass shootings. We mourn the victims, observe moments of silence, and are told to review and update our school safety plans. Then, we fail to address the issues legislatively and move on as a country.
To me, it is never too soon to speak about these issues, but sadly and tragically it is too late for some. In the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting, the media, law enforcement and others will seek to determine why this happened. We can’t afford to let other victims and their families ask why we failed again to act as a country.
And remember: if you see something, say something.