Today I stood on the steps of Florida’s Old State Capitol with fellow clergy and watched thousands — most of them young — restore my faith in democracy. It’s hard to express how moving it was to see such determined, articulate young people speak the truth to power with zeal, determination and courage.
The children from Majory Stoneman Douglas High School were not dupes of the left or actors flown in to impersonate real life youngsters. They were the flesh-and-blood human beings whose friends were slaughtered and whose lives have been scarred forever by a troubled contemporary yielding a weapon meant for the battlefield.
I would not like to be the legislator who has to look those grieving young people in the eye and tell them that he or she does not support curtailing the availability and proliferation of all guns – especially those designed for military use.
I am beyond anger at lawmakers who say, “We don’t ban cars when someone uses a car to kill people; why should we ban guns?” That analogy is not only specious, it’s insulting to the memory of the 17 who died last week. There’s a difference between a machine meant for transportation and a machine built for slaughter. In fact, we do regulate cars. We regulate who can drive them and where, and how fast. We license drivers who have to pass a test. We insist on safety standards and even recall vehicles that don’t meet the standards
Not so with guns. Guns are for killing.
Nor am I persuaded that “mental health” is the prime issue. It is the height of hypocrisy that a legislature that refuses to expand health coverage to its low income citizens would suddenly call for more money for “mental health.” Clearly, the shooter at Parkland was deeply disturbed, and “the system” failed to give him the care he needed. But in fact, the incidence of mental illness is no higher for the United States than other rich industrialized nations, and people who are mentally ill are seldom violent toward others on a mass scale. Nikolas Cruz was an “outlier” among those suffering from mental illness. “Mental health” is not the primary issue.
The primary issue is the easy availability and proliferation of guns – especially hand guns and guns designed to fire many rounds rapidly.
Speaking of mental illness, it is beyond insane that a 18-year-old can walk into a store, fill out some papers, wait a few minutes, and walk out with an AR-15 rifle. In five of the six deadliest mass shootings of the past six years in the United States, the gunman had an AR- 15-style semiautomatic rifle. You have to be 21 to buy a handgun nationwide, but in many Florida counties you can buy an AR-15 at age 18 without a 3-day waiting period.
That’s my definition of madness.
The writers of the second amendment could not have dreamed that there would come a time in America when a person, barely an adult himself, could slaughter children with a weapon sanctioned by law. In their wildest nightmares, they could not have imagined that the “right to bear arms” would come to this.
But today I witnessed what I pray will be a tipping point in the struggle for common sense gun control. These young people won’t give up, nor are they likely to excuse us adults who have failed so miserably to protect them.
Shame on us and Bravo to them.
” . . . and a little child shall lead them.”