War Zones on the Homefront

You fasten all the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you sit back and watch
When the death count gets high
You hide in your mansion
While the young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good?
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could?
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

“Masters of War” – Bob Dylan

The New Domestic War Zone

Columbine. Sandy Hook. Parkland. Uvalde. 

These names, these schools and the loss of life in these places run deep in our nation’s heart.

These are our domestic war zones. Yet, more than 23 years after Columbine, mass school shootings still happen in the places where our children should feel the safest. Year after year – sometimes week after week – the nightmare recurs. Church shooting here, synagogue shooting there, and school shootings are more prevalent than ever before. 

As we speak, parents in Uvalde, Texas, are waiting for their children to be identified by DNA. Loved ones of the teachers killed are making arrangements. A community is forever changed. Our nation is mourning, yet again. And leaders in Congress and the Senate are working furiously to… do nothing. Nothing of substance is done. The cycle repeats.

No, don’t worry, parents, children and loved ones of America! Our leaders are taking action! They’ve let us know  Uvalde is in their thoughts and prayers. 

All You Have are Thoughts and Prayers?

If I may, when a term is as disdained as “thoughts and prayers,” for the love, find a different phrase. 

To be clear, praying is in no way a problem. It’s a wonderful thing. For a person of faith, prayer is something so much deeper and more meaningful than mere words, and it might be the only way to make it through tragedies like this. People pray for the victims and their loved ones, for the strength to carry on, for the right words to explain this to our children, for our leaders to have courage and inspiration to find a solution that might mean our children & teachers stop dying at school. 

However, where frustration comes is seeing elected officials offer thoughts and prayers for a problem that’s been ongoing for decades, with little movement on safety. The seniors murdered at Columbine High School would be 41 now, possibly with elementary school children of their own. Just two weeks ago, 10 people were murdered while grocery shopping in Buffalo, simply for being Black. In the same weekend, one person was killed and four others injured when a gunman entered their Taiwanese American church in Laguna Woods, Calif.

With all due respect, God didn’t create the partisan carve outs, loopholes and lobbyists financial funnel that now force our schools to provide mandatory “active shooter” training in elementary schools. Combining that with the culture of extremism that pervades and eats our national politics from within,  we’re incapable of having common sense conversations about how to protect our kids.

The vast majority of American people are fed up with being the only developed nation that deals with school shootings on a regular basis. We are scared and angry. One of the most impassioned calls for movement came from, of all places, Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr, at his pre-game press conference Tuesday. Parents and schools are forced to try to find the safety equivalent of Pinterest hacks to keep children safe because the people who could actually do something to help, won’t. 

Can Anything Be Done?

After initially announcing he will not bring new gun legislation to a vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he is open to a bi-partisan sear on two bills passed by the House. The efforts, led by Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), will allow “…Democrats some space to test the waters with Republicans, one last time.”

But why is it so difficult to cobble together support when even many Republicans have openly supported certain approaches, like red flag laws

The common refrain is that Republican politicians are beholden to the NRA. While it’s true the NRA is a force on Capitol Hill, it doesn’t compare to the weight Gun Owners of America pulls. 

However, on the national level the most likely reason Republicans can’t be moved on gun legislation is less about campaign funding and more about right-wing media and grassroots support. In other words, hyper-partisanship rears its ugly head.

Biden calls for lawmakers to have a backbone

President Joe Biden addressed the shooting in emotional remarks from the White House Tuesday evening, saying, “I had hoped when I became President, I would not have to do this again.”

Turning to the issue of gun control legislation, Biden implored lawmakers to “turn this pain into action” as he ticked through some of the mass shootings since the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook, when he was vice president.

“Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone to have the courage to deal with and stand up to the lobbies?” he said.

Vice President Kamala Harris said in remarks earlier this week, “Enough is enough.”

“Our hearts keep getting broken. … Every time a tragedy like this happens, our hearts break and our broken hearts are nothing compared to the broken hearts of those families. And, yet, it keeps happening,” she said.

The More Things Change…

Still, familiar political postures emerged throughout the day.

GOP Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina warned Democrats against having a “reflexive reaction,” saying he is confident in the coming days it will be learned that there were “signs” the 18-year-old shooter was “at risk.”

“It’s horrible. And you know what we need to avoid is the reflexive reaction we have to say this could all be solved by not having guns in anyone’s hands. We can always talk about reasonable measures, but we also have to talk about better situational awareness,” Tillis told CNN.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz said, “You see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

We’re not here to question the existence of the Second Amendment. But there’s no doubt its existence has become complicated. The Second Amendment is a constitutional right, one many Americans take very seriously. But it should not require our schools to become domestic war zones. 

Time to Stop the Madness

It’s time to move beyond rhetoric and hyper-partisanship. Democrats and Republicans must come together to find a solution, and both parties must be equal negotiators. We cannot afford to lose  more children to senseless school violence because adults won’t rise above partisanship. 

Because there’s another constitutional right Sen. Cruz and his colleagues should consider, one that these recurring shootings “chip away” at. One the children and teachers of Uvalde and Parkland and Sandy Hook and Columbine and too many more deserved to have protected. 

The right to life.