Last Wednesday as I sat in a hospital family waiting room awaiting the surgical outcome for my brother, a breaking news alert flashed across the TV screen. Another school shooting had occurred. This time the shooter took aim in Parkland, Florida at Douglas High school-killing 17 persons including students, one teacher, wrestling coach and football coach. At first, I couldn’t bear to watch under my present circumstances at the time. As the day ended and the next day arrived, I saw students speaking out on TV about the shooting and their fervent plea for changes to our gun laws.
Having once debated former NRA president David Keene on gun rights, I know the NRA opposes any restrictions which take away gun rights. However, I also know we need to prioritize life over death; people over profits; actions over silence; laws over prayers and kids over guns. While the second amendment grants the rights to bear arms, the Declaration of Independence states we are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These words suggest at a minimum that these are the values that our society holds dear. Unequivocally we honor and value life over death in all circumstances except when it comes to demands of the NRA and the acquiescence of many lawmakers who accept their donations and then do their bidding.
We turn our attention to the shooters and look for their pattern. We go to great lengths to see patterns and ways to have prevented mass shootings like Douglas. We say prayers and thoughts for the victims when we need action and prevention. Last year was called the deadliest year in mass shooting. 2018 is off to a running start to take the lead. In 1999, the year of Columbine shooting at a Colorado high school, 12 students and one teacher were shot. By 2017, Columbine no longer makes the list for the top ten mass shootings.
As we look for patterns of these mass shooters, we overlook the one common thread. We want to blame mass shootings on Muslims, the mentally ill and persons with mental health issues. While mental health issues may be one component of some mass shootings, the Trump administration blocked efforts by the Social Security Administration from supplying names of mentally impaired receiving benefits to the national gun database. The sole culprit in all mass shootings are guns. Many involve assault type weapons that can execute a multitude of victims at a time. Assault weapons are weapons of war. They should be banned for recreational use. And assault weapons account for a majority of mass shootings. Assault weapons are the common denominator in mass shootings. From 1982 to 2012, half of all mass shooters used assault weapons, high capacity magazines or both.
Until we pass gun legislation that bans weapons that allows a shooter to fire a large number of bullets without reloading, we will continue to see mass shootings. It seems like a no brainer to value our children over guns. In our morally bankrupt society, guns are valued over the lives of children and everyone else.
In November, 2018, we have an opportunity to elect lawmakers who will address changing gun laws. While we cannot change the hearts of those opposed to sensible gun laws, we can change those lawmakers from representing our children’s lives. Our children’s lives are more important than guns.
Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor.