“What do we do?”
That’s what Sen. Christopher S. Murphy (D-Conn.) asked after 21 people, including 19 children, were killed in a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school on Tuesday, just over a week after what authorities called racism motivated murder of 10 people at a convenience store in Buffalo, NY.
“There were more mass shootings than there were days in a year. … Our children live in fear,” he said.
Murphy, a longtime supporter of gun control legislation, reached out specifically to his colleagues in the Senate chambers. “Why go to all the trouble of getting this job, of putting yourself in a position of authority, when your answer is we do nothing while the carnage increases as our children run for their lives?”
The five-minute clip went viral in part because he could have spoken to any American when he said, “It wasn’t inevitable. That only happens in this country. Nowhere else… and it’s a choice. It’s our choice. So that it continues. What. Are. We do?”
He certainly spoke for most Americans, the vast majority of whom support some form of gun control, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons. Early reports indicate that at least one of these weapons may have been used to gun down students and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas.
When he said, “I’m here on this floor to beg, to literally get on my hands and knees to beg,” for Congress to do something, “stop listening to this silent message of affirmation to these killers broadcast whose brains are breaking, who sees the highest levels of government do nothing and shoot at one after the other,” I know he spoke for me.
I would absolutely beg on my hands and knees in the Senate room or anywhere else, in sackcloth and ashes and on broken glass, if I thought it would help. I’m tired of living in fear for my children, my friends, my life, my country because some people think that protecting the right to own weapons intended for mass slaughter is more important than that to protect American lives.
More important than ensuring the safety of our schools, our businesses, our churches, our meeting places.
I am not against guns. I grew up in a gun community; My brother and I knew when the hunting season started because we heard it. We kept the dogs indoors and avoided certain parts of the nearby woods. We grew up with cap guns, then BB guns, and my dad taught us to shoot his pistol and rifle. He wanted us to understand how they worked and always remember that, like a car, they were deadly weapons.
But no one I knew had semi-automatic guns in the woodshed; nobody complained because they couldn’t take their guns into a restaurant, nobody posed with military-style weapons for their Christmas photos.
My children grew up in a house without guns, not because I hate guns, but because they went to schools that had regular rifle practice. My husband grew up under his desk in fear of the Russians; My kids learned escape routes and how to quickly lock classroom doors because of armed Americans.
We were lucky considering raising three children who have never before experienced gun violence in their schools, “lucky” which I think you should be. Think about it for a minute.
A few years ago, before the pandemic, I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from my daughter’s elementary school. I was in the car before I could even think straight. A block away I passed a construction crew putting a new roof on a house with what appeared to be a nail gun. After locating the source of the noise, I almost threw up with relief. But I drove to the mercifully peaceful school anyway and sat and imagined what life would be like if it hadn’t been for the roofers I heard.
So honestly what do we do? As a columnist and critic, I’ve written about mass shootings so many times I really don’t know what to say anymore. I remember in the early days of the pandemic when my youngest was struggling with online learning and she wiped her tears and looked at me with a grin and said, “Well, at least I don’t have to worry about school shootings.”
How did this become our reality?
Like many others, I thought the horror of Sandy Hook would sweep gun control out of the swamp of gun lobby-controlled politics and into the realm of public safety. Surely we could all agree that this slaughter of innocents should never happen again, that we should do everything in our power to make sure it never happened again.
But we disagreed and it happened again, many times and often with higher body counts. Mass shootings are no longer perverse tragedies; They are part of almost everyday life and create the kind of collective fear, insecurity, anger and fear that is the target of every terrorist.
Imagine an enemy nation committing these crimes – the outrage, determination, money and manpower expended to stop them.
But we are the hostile nation here, terrorizing itself while too many of our leaders claim they can do nothing.
Our culture has become one of thoughts and prayers, heartbroken emojis and brief bursts of outrage, to be answered by those who make preemptive demands from those who believe that the answer to gun violence is more guns, that we tragedies should not “politicize” by dealing with weapons.
Except for guns. Not all guns, just the kind designed to shoot lots of people with minimal effort.
The mentally ill can do all sorts of harm, but they can kill 19 kids in an elementary school, or 17 people in a high school, or 58 people at a music festival, only if they have a certain type of weapon. Racists can do many terrible things, but they can’t kill 10 people in a grocery store or 23 people in a Walmart unless they have a certain type of weapon.
They bought most of them legally.
Clearly, if this type of slaughter is being carried out with legally purchased guns, the laws need to be changed.
But the laws are not changing, at least not in the direction of controlling the number and types of weapons available to would-be mass murderers. So what do we do?
As it stands, we are making it abundantly clear to ourselves and to the rest of the world that mass shootings in America are perfectly acceptable. That we are not interested in protecting even the most vulnerable members of our society, that the regular slaughter of children in their classrooms and adults in the marketplace is the price of life in this country.
That we love our guns more than literally anything else.
Except we don’t. Or at least most of us don’t. Poll after poll, most Americans, including most gun owners, support some form of gun control, including universal background checks and warning sign laws. As voters, we have a responsibility to elect officials who will ensure that these laws are passed, who will see this gun violence crisis for what it is and will do everything in our power to end it.
So what do we do? Unless we are genuinely willing, collectively and publicly, to support a culture of self-imposed terrorism, to witness the future deaths of countless children and adults, then the answer can no longer be nothing.
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-05-25/texas-school-shooting-senator-chris-murphy Texas school shooting: Sen. Chris Murphy speech says it all