I refuse to accept we are helpless. We lie in wait, it seems, from one school shooting to another. Why do we do this? We do this because, according to many of my fellow countrypersons living in America, there is absolutely nothing to be done about it. It’s too big, it’s too complex, it’s the scary, controlling National Rifle Association, and most of all, it’s not about the guns.
This is what they say. And I don’t buy it.
Wednesday another school shooting occurred — very close to home — at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, a school in suburban Parkland, Florida. How interesting that Wednesday’s events have apparently nothing to do with the shooter having a gun. After another hoard of high school students were forced to run for their lives; to hide in lockers and under desks and in closets; to silently contact their parents to tell them they were under attack; to hunker down on top of one another and play dead; to be left with images of blood on the school floors …
After there are more dead and more injured; after parents lined up in wait outside the police perimeter to hopefully collect their children unharmed; and after another courageous teacher loses her life shielding her students from bullets intended to kill them, the word on the street by so many is that this has nothing to do with guns.
These are excuses for not evolving. Are we really this weak as a collective? Where is our fortitude? Where is our perseverance?
Seriously? I have heard the reasons attributing mass school shooting situations to everything but guns. Let’s take a few:
— “It’s not the fact that the shooter had a gun, it’s his mental health that was the problem.”
— “If someone wants to kill people they are going to find a way to do it — the gun isn’t the problem.”
— “American young men are over-stressed and don’t know how to handle when things don’t go their way; it’s a stress or anger management issue.”
— “Restricting guns in any way at all will punish the majority of gun owners who are good gun owners.”
— “It is the school’s fault. They should have had better security.”
— “There should be guns on campus. Arm the teachers; this would have stopped the shooter.”
— “The shooter’s parents should have paid better attention. And the neighbors — no one noticed anything. It’s about people being more observant — not about guns.”
— “Should have, could have, would have — someone should have reported the shooter’s loner behavior, or the fact that he liked to share pictures of guns on social media. This could have stopped him.”
These are excuses for not evolving. Are we really this weak as a collective? Where is our fortitude? Where is our perseverance? Our entrepreneurial spirit? Sure, all of the above issues are relevant to being healthier and safer in the community. We do need to do better on mental health, on noticing when people are acting out of the ordinary, on balancing security and safety.
But these issues do not abdicate our responsibility from doing the hard work of minimizing guns in the hands of killers. While the above factors differ in each shooting event, there are two factors which are ever-present in school mass shootings — a human being, with a gun in hand. And this human being with gun in hand is the instrument of death, terror and destruction. This combination is a threat to our way of life in America.
Since when does having a complex problem stop us from making progress? Since when do we throw our hands in the air and say there is nothing at all we can do? I teach my teenagers to seek and to find solutions — to every problem, big and small. Mass shootings in our schools is a problem. I refuse to accept we are helpless.
Hava Leipzig Holzhauer is a mother of four teenagers, an attorney and immediate past director of the Anti-Defamation League, Florida.
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