You may have missed the headline because it has become so horrifically commonplace: children shot at school. The dateline was the small town of Perry, Iowa. Last Thursday, a high school student opened fire in his school cafeteria, killing one person and injuring seven before dying by suicide. We’re barely a week into the new year and already four, four, school shootings have been reported, according to the K-12 School Shooting Database.
The shooting in Iowa comes at a difficult time for Republican presidential candidates. Because of the proximity of the shooting (the Iowa caucuses are next Monday), they’ve been forced to address gun violence in schools. As has also become commonplace with politicians, former President Donald Trump offered up thoughts and prayers. But Trump took it further by saying, “It’s just horrible, so surprising to see it here. But we have to get over it, we have to move forward.”
Many Americans are responding: No, Mr. Trump, we don’t have to get over it. Ever.
While the Republican Party tells us we should be afraid of immigrants coming across the southern border, we’re supposed to “get over” the increasing numbers of children murdered in schools.
Are we also supposed to “get over” the never-ending worry in every parent’s mind when they bundle their kids off to school: Will my child’s school be a target? Will my kid?
Think of the first question you ask when you hear of a school shooting: Where did it happen?
American schools collectively spent $12 billion on security guards last year, an expenditure that is second only to teachers’ salaries and doesn’t include millions more for metal detectors, cameras, and door locks. Yet the killings continue. The number of incidents is on the rise, dramatically. In 2017 there were 59 school shootings. That number more than doubled the following year. And in six years, the number of shootings in schools skyrocketed almost six-fold to 346.
We also don’t have to “get over” nonsensical gun laws that make it easy for young people and others to obtain a firearm of mass destruction. In Texas, an 18-year-old can purchase an assault rifle but can’t buy a pistol.
Many of the nation’s weak gun laws can be traced back to the work of the National Rifle Association. The NRA is the lobbying group that for years did a masterful job of marketing false narratives and stacking state legislatures with pro-gun representatives who enacted these laws. The organization is now in decline, and its longtime CEO, Wayne LaPierre, has resigned just as the organization goes on trial over fraud allegations. The New York attorney general wants to dissolve the nonprofit after executives allegedly pocketed tens of millions of donated dollars for themselves.
You might be asking, what can be done? Well, Iowa students angered by the shooting organized a protest march at the state Capitol on Monday to coincide with the first day of the new legislative session. What can you do? The list is long. Call your elected officials, all of them: local, state, and federal, to demand stronger gun laws. And don’t forget the power of the ballot box. And, perhaps most importantly, continue to care.
Get the names and contact information of the people who represent you on the federal, state, and local levels.
One hopes that when it comes to the increasing problem of school shootings, America as a whole will not “get over it.” The hope is that we will rededicate ourselves to reducing if not outright ending it.