“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 the race motivated murder of 10 people at a supermarket in Buffalo, NY.
“There have been more mass shootings than days in the year. … Our children live in fear,” he said.
A longtime supporter of gun control legislation, Murphy spoke specifically to his colleagues in the Senate chambers. “Why go through all the hassle of getting this job, putting yourself in a position of authority if your response, as the slaughter escalates as our children run for their lives, we do nothing?”
The five-minute clip went viral in part because he could have spoken to all Americans when he said, “It wasn’t inevitable. It only happens in this country. Nowhere else…and that’s a choice. It is our choice. To keep it going. What. Are. We do?”
He was certainly speaking 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, to ‘stop sending this silent message of approval to these killers whose brains breaks, which see the highest levels of government doing nothing, shooting after shooting,” I know he was speaking for me.
I would absolutely beg on all fours in the senate chamber or anywhere else, in sackcloth and ashes and on broken glass, if I thought it would help. I am tired of living in fear for my children, my friends, my life, my country, because some people think that protecting the right to possess weapons designed for mass slaughter is more important than protecting the life of Americans.
More important than keeping our schools, our stores, our churches, our gathering places safe.
I’m not anti-gun. I grew up in a community with guns; my brother and I knew when hunting season was starting because we heard it. We kept the dogs indoors and avoided parts of the nearby woods. We grew up playing with cap guns, then BB guns, and my dad taught us how to shoot his handgun and rifle. He wanted us to understand how they worked and always remember that, like an automobile, they were lethal weapons.
But no one I knew had semi-automatic weapons at the stake; no one complained because they couldn’t bring their guns to the restaurant, no one posed with military style guns for their Christmas photos.
My kids grew up in a gun-free home, not because I hate guns, but because they went to schools that had regular shooting drills. My husband grew up hiding under his desk for fear of Russians; my kids learned escape routes and how to quickly lock the classroom doors from armed Americans.
We were lucky, if you consider raising three kids who have never experienced gun violence in their schools so far to be “lucky,” which I guess you should. Think about it for a minute.
A few years ago, before the pandemic, I heard what sounded like gunshots coming from the principal of my daughter’s elementary school. I was in the car before I could even think clearly. A block away, I passed a construction crew re-roofing a house with what appeared to be a nail gun. Having located the source of the sound, I almost threw up in relief. But I still drove to the blissfully peaceful school and sat there imagining what life would be like if it hadn’t been for the roofers I heard.
So frankly, what do we do? As a columnist and critic, I’ve written about mass shootings so often that I really don’t know what to say. I remember at the start of the pandemic, when my youngest was struggling to learn online, she wiped away her tears and looked at me with a smile and said, “Well, at least I didn’t. not to worry about school shootings.”
How did this become our reality?
Like many, I thought the horror of Sandy Hook would lift 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 massacre of innocents should never happen again, that we should do everything in our power to ensure that it never happens again.
But we disagreed and it happened again, multiple times and often with higher body counts. Mass shootings are no longer aberrant tragedies; they are part of almost daily life, creating the kind of collective anxiety, uncertainty, anger and fear that is the goal of every terrorist.
Imagine if a hostile nation committed these crimes – the outrage, the resolve, the money and personnel that would be dedicated to ending them.
But we are the hostile nation here, terrorizing ourselves as too many of our leaders pretend they can’t do anything.
Our culture has become a culture of thoughts and prayers, heartbroken emojis and brief waves of outrage met with preemptive demands from those who believe the answer to gun violence is more guns. fire, that we should not “politicize” the tragedy by doing something about it. guns.
Except it’s guns. Not all weapons, just those designed to shoot large numbers of people with minimal effort.
The mentally ill can do all kinds of damage, but they can kill 19 kids in an elementary school, or 17 people in a high school, or 58 people in a music festival, only if they have a specific type of weapon. . Racist people can do a lot of terrible things, but they can only kill 10 people in a grocery store or 23 people in a Walmart if they have a specific type of weapon.
They bought most of them legally.
When this type of butchery is done with legally purchased weapons, it is clear that the laws must change.
But the laws are not changing, at least not in the sense of controlling the number and type of weapons available to potential mass murderers. So what do we do?
As it stands, we are making it very clear to ourselves and to the rest of the world that mass shootings are perfectly acceptable in America. 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. In poll after poll, most Americans, including most gun owners, support some form of gun control, including universal background checks and red flag laws. As voters, we are responsible for electing leaders who will see these laws passed, who will see this crisis of gun violence for what it is, and will do everything in their power to end it.
So what do we do? Unless we are truly prepared to collectively and publicly endorse a culture of self-imposed terrorism, to cosign the future deaths of countless children and adults, then the answer can no longer be anything.