In the Suburbs / The voices of Parkland students may finally confront gun violence
The voices of the victims from 11 school massacres before Parkland, Fla., cried out to be heard. They were the students and their teachers who simply went to school one morning and never came home. Do you remember the places and the days they died?
Nov. 14, 2017: Rancho Tehama Reserve (Tehama County, Calif.) shootings, six deaths
Oct. 1, 2015: Umpqua Community College (Roseburg, Ore.) shootings, 10 deaths
Oct. 24, 2014: Marysville Pilchuck High School (Marysville, Wash.) shooting, five deaths
June 7, 2013: Santa Monica shooting, six deaths
Dec. 14, 2012: Sandy Hook Elementary School (Newtown) shootings, 28 deaths
April 2, 2012: Oikos University (Oakland, Calif.) shootings, seven deaths
Feb. 14, 2008: Northern Illinois University shootings, six deaths
April 6, 2007: Virginia Tech shootings, 33 deaths
Oct. 2, 2006: West Nickel Mines School (Nickel Mines, Pa.) shooting, six deaths
March 21, 2005: Red Lake (Minn.) shootings, 10 deaths
April 20, 1999: Columbine High School (Columbine, Colo.) shootings, 15 deaths
But the students of Parkland, Fla.’s Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school shootings, where Nikolas Cruz, who gained easy access to the school and escaped along with other students, left 17 innocent students and teachers dead, will not be silent. They will be heard!
A majority of the students, who lived through that horrific Valentine’s Day massacre, have every intention of telling a story that became all too real in the space of just minutes, and they have their legislators and the man in the White House in their crosshairs. And their parents will go with them to Tallahassee (Fla.) or Washington, D.C.
One such dad was the father of 17-year-old Jamie Guttenberg, According to reports, “It wasn’t easy for anyone at her funeral to forget how Jaime died. She went down with a bullet in the back Wednesday, one of the 17 killed in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“Nobody will tell me that gun violence does not exist!” shouted her father, Fred. He then furiously denounced President Donald Trump for sending out a tweet Saturday that suggested the FBI might have stopped the shooting if it wasn’t preoccupied with investigation allegations that his campaign colluded with Russia to rig the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Like Fred Guttenberg, I have asked myself, “When is enough enough?”
When can we send our children off to school and not worry that they will never come home because some student in need of more help than he or she was ever given secures a semi-automatic rifle and just starts shooting.
I was particularly encouraged after this tragedy by the number of students who spoke out or yelled out that they have had enough. One group in Washington staged a lie-in in front of the White House. Other school-age coalitions are forming throughout the country and they are being joined by parents of the children of Sandy Hook and others whose children were victims of school shootings or homicides.
And it was good to see that U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were interviewed about many of the measures that have been taken here in Connecticut since the Sandy Hook tragedy. Their voices have remained the voices of the 26 Sandy Hook victims — innocent children and teachers — as they push for the necessary legislation that will make the difference going forward.
From the last report I heard at the beginning of the week, President Trump said he is willing to convene a forum of high schoolers from Parkland and other schools around the country, parents and other interested parties to talk about possible solutions. Trump also expressed his willingness to look more closely into background checks and other measures that could keep guns out of the hands of those who have mental illness or have displayed any predisposition to violence. But I’m still not holding my breath.
Frankly, I would also hope that any students who attend a forum on gun violence at the White House would also be courageous enough to take their case to the National Rifle Association. Just seeing an image of an AR-15 rifle on its website is all the more reason why the NRA needs to be put on the spot.
After Sandy Hook, where so many parents tried to be the voices of their children against gun violence but so little was done by the lower courts and Congress, I wondered if anything would ever bring the issue of guns to a negotiating table. But finally hearing the voices of these courageous children from Parkland, who are asking when the murdering of innocent children will stop, I finally believe there is a ray of hope.
Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his “In the Suburbs” appears each Friday. He can be reached at stevengaynes44