We must protect children, not the merchants of death
By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President
Another week, another mass shooting, more condolences from elected officials…and nothing gets done. As of this writing, we have had 19 shootings of some sort on campus this year, and we are likely to have another before this article gets published.
The numbers are mind-numbing: According to the New York Times, more than 430 people have been shot in 273 school attacks since the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting in 2012.
The daily shootings of brown and black youth that take place across the country may not get the same attention the horrific mass killings receive, but they take and destroy lives just the same. We can establish laws that regulate seat belts, speed limits, and the use of alcohol, yet we cannot manage to effectively regulate guns.
We are not the only country where this kind of tragedy happens. What is different in America is the deadly grip the National Rifle Association has on the political process. Its ability to mobilize its members squelches all efforts at gun control. The NRA has effectively linked gun control with a perceived challenge to the Second Amendment of the Constitution.
The American people, who in the majority support stricter gun control, are going to have to rise up and demand that their elected representatives act.
I’m not going to get into what the founders meant by the Second Amendment. To me, that debate has always seemed to miss the point. The men who wrote the Constitution were fallible. The original Constitution didn’t do a number of things and we fixed them.
This can be fixed as well, but it won’t take a constitutional change to make that happen. The American people, who in the majority support stricter gun control, are going to have to rise up and demand that their elected representatives act. We can be inspired by the young people who survived the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, whose activism has prompted national action and a corporate boycott of the NRA.
NRA adherents try to pawn this off as a mental health issue, not a gun issue. Obviously, it can be both. When the CFT tried a few years ago to promote legislation that would have funded mental health professionals and nurses in every school, it was stopped in a state legislative committee. Politicians can talk about the need for mental health awareness, but unless the funding is there to train and hire more professionals, all the rhetoric is simply meaningless.
Something else is going on that also very disturbing. How is it that a young man with his whole life to live could take 17 lives and effectively destroy his own? This has played out over and over again. There is a despair in this country so deep that human beings act out in ways that are unimaginable and it happens with such regularity that it’s beyond epidemic proportions. When you combine this with job loss in communities plagued by the opioid crisis you get a sense of how profound a situation has developed.
On a recent trip to a small town in Ohio where my daughter is going to college, my wife and I had dinner at a well-known chain restaurant. It struck us that in the two adjacent large outdoor malls, every store had been shuttered. A once-thriving community had been decimated. The opioid epidemic that is rampant in Ohio is a reflection of the despair in the same way that killings in schools, concerts, and movie theaters are acts of despair.
The trifecta of despair, availability of guns, and lack of mental health services will mean more senseless violence. We need political leaders willing to take on these issues and not be afraid of the wrath of powerful political forces.