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How long until we protect children, not guns?

MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN | 2/26/2018, 4:50 p.m.
“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciate everything you did for me.” – Text message sent ...

Children’s Defense Fund

“If I don’t make it I love you and I appreciate everything you did for me.” – Text message sent from a student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida to her mother.

December 2017 marked the fifth anniversary of the indescribably horrible mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School when 20 young children and six teachers were brutally murdered by a 20-year-old with a gun he should never have possessed. As our nation was grieving, I wrote that this terrible tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut, was no fluke but a result of the senseless, immoral and indefensible neglect of all of us in our nation to protect children instead of guns and to speak out against the pervasive culture of violence and the insane proliferation of guns by the millions that have no business in civilian hands. I truly believed at the time that these shocking and horrific murders would finally force our elected leaders to put child life and safety ahead of politics and the NRA and take the necessary steps to protect children instead of guns.

Wow, was I wrong.

Sandy Hook marked a turning point in public opinion about guns and sparked a new wave of public advocacy to prevent gun violence, but it did not fundamentally change the cowardice of most of the men and women we have elected to represent us who put their political self-interest ahead of the safety of our children. Though some states made important strides to prevent deadly weapons from getting into the wrong hands, others have gone backward. Our Congressional leaders have continued to offer platitudes after horrific mass shootings while doing nothing to act and expand and improve the background check system, limit access to assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, deprive domestic violence perpetrators of their guns, or even take basic steps to prevent children from accessing deadly firearms by requiring safe storage of guns and ammunition. Congress has turned a blind eye and wallowed in inaction while the deadly plague of gun violence afflicting our nation has worsened. The rate of child and teen gun deaths has increased every year since Sandy Hook and nearly 11,000 more children and teens have died.

On Feb. 14, it happened again.

This time the victims were teachers and students going about their day at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida – maybe excited about Valentine’s Day because of a secret crush, or planning to go to Ash Wednesday mass that evening. The shooter was a 19-year-old former student at the school with a history of disturbing behavior and an obsession with guns. Like many other mass shooters in the United States, he was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle. In a short span of time 17 people lost their lives and at least 14 were injured. Once again we saw the scenes many of us first saw outside Columbine High School in April 1999 that now seem horribly and tragically familiar in America: frightened students fleeing with their hands up, frantic parents desperate to reunite with their children, and traumatized survivors telling television interviewers what happened and the horrors they heard and saw. And it goes on and on and will continue to go on and on until we stand up together and say no more.