Stand united with students

Support the young people organizing to counter Congress’ defiance to gun laws

We’ve officially lost count of the times we’ve written about the nation’s worst mass shootings in the editorial pages of this newspaper in recent years.

Think Aurora, Colo., where 12 died at a movie theater; Newtown, Conn., where 20 elementary school children and six adults were gunned down; Charleston, S.C., where nine church-goers were shot to death; Sutherland Springs, Texas, where 26 parishioners were killed while attending services; Orlando, where 49 were shot and killed at the Pulse nightclub; Las Vegas, where 58 were slaughtered while watching a concert; or closer to home, in Rancho Tehama, where five people were murdered.

All of the aforementioned incidents took place within the past six years, and each time this newspaper and others throughout the nation have called for Congress to enact stricter gun legislation, including federal background checks universally for gun sales. Each time, we’ve seen the same response, especially from high-ranking Republicans, such as Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (who, by the way, has accepted $1.3 million from the NRA).

As we said this past October, following the Las Vegas massacre, we know the game plan. First, stall. That’s what the members of the Do Nothing Congress are doing when, after a shooting, they say it’s too soon to start a debate about gun laws. Second, of course, they will send out thoughts and prayers and do their utmost to sound sincere. Next, they deflect by pointing to the perpetrator having mental health issues. Finally, they ignore the calls for change, rely on voter apathy and continue to pocket contributions from the NRA.

Their responses are as predictable as knowing there will be yet another similar tragedy. Indeed, as we’ve seen over and over, it’s only a matter of time.

Most recently, it was Parkland, Fla., where 17 people—mostly students—lost their lives in the course of their everyday activities at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Keep in mind that there have been many other mass shootings this year that you’ve likely never read about. According to a database compiled by the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, in 2018 alone there have been 34 mass shootings resulting in 60 deaths.

Sadly, Congress, mainly Republicans, will remain defiant on this issue—even when it comes to no-brainer regulations. Let’s recall the bipartisan bill that sought to expand background checks to cover weapon sales at gun shows and on the internet. That effort—the so-called Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act (aka the Manchin-Toomey amendment, so named for Sens. Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey, a Democrat and Republican, respectively)—died for a lack of support after the GOP threatened a filibuster.

What’s worse is that, in some places, gun violence actually tends to result in less-restrictive laws. That’s according to recent research out of the Harvard Business School, which found that “a mass shooting increases the number of enacted laws that loosen gun restrictions by 75 percent in states with Republican-controlled legislatures.”

That shouldn’t be surprising considering one of President Trump’s first actions upon entering the White House was to gut an Obama-era initiative aimed at preventing mentally ill people from purchasing guns. That measure, which hadn’t been fully implemented, was taken by the former president following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Conn.

So, now what? It’s time for “we the people” to take action.

In response to the Parkland tragedy, young activists are in the early stages of organizing two large events. First, on March 24, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas and elsewhere have organized the March for Our Lives demonstration, a march on the nation’s capital, to demand school safety gun regulation. Second, on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting, is a National School Walkout, which is being organized by a student who lives near Sandy Hook.

For the latter, we encourage local students to take up the cause, and for their teachers, mentors and school administrators to stand by them. Together, their voices hold power.