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The video taken outside the Covenant School in Nashville on Monday was heartbreaking. A bystander filmed a line of small children, holding hands, being led away from the Christian school where six people were shot and killed.
These children, like their peers at Sandy Hook, Uvalde and numerous other elementary schools, will carry the trauma of this day with them for the rest of their lives. School shootings, and all mass shootings, are traumatic and heartbreaking. But there is something especially egregious about seeing such young children caught up in the massacres that have become too frequent in America. There have been 131 mass shootings already this year.
On Monday, three 9-year-old students and three adults, including the head of the school, were shot to death by a 28-year-old former student, who police say was armed with two assault-type rifles and a handgun. Police quickly killed the shooter.
Many Americans, as they do after these horrific events, are left wondering when more will be done to stem the nation’s gun violence.
That sentiment was captured by Ashbey Beasley who took over a press conference outside the school.
“Aren’t you guys tired of being here and having to cover all of these mass shootings?” Beasley asked the reporters gathered around a cluster of microphones.
Beasley and her 6-year-old son were at the Highland Park shooting in Illinois in July. She said she has been lobbying members of Congress for action to restrict guns since then.
She was visiting family in Nashville and was supposed to have lunch Monday with a friend whose son was killed in a shooting at a Waffle House in Tennessee in 2018. Instead, the friend called, in a panic, to say her younger son’s school was in lockdown because of the events at the Covenant School.
“Only in America can you survive a mass shooting and go and make a friend who is the victim of a mass shooting and then go to meet that friend for lunch … and end up in the middle of another mass shooting event,” she told the Washington Post.
It is not a distinction that America can be proud of.
“We have to do more to stop gun violence; it’s ripping our communities apart — ripping the soul of this nation,” President Joe Biden said Monday.
He called on Congress to pass an assault weapons ban. Although pundits say such a measure, which is strongly opposed by gun rights groups, doesn’t have the votes to pass, it must be given serious consideration. Mass shootings, and sales of assault rifles, have increased since a similar ban was allowed to expire in 2004.
Some have already pointed out that the private Christian school did not have armed officers on the campus. But we know that fortifying schools and staffing them with resources officers won’t necessarily stop such violence. There were 400 armed law enforcement personnel at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, but they didn’t enter the classroom where a gunman had taken students hostage for over an hour. They didn’t want to confront the shooter, who was armed with an AR-15, because the weapon was so powerful, according to a report released earlier this month.
If law enforcement officers, armed and wearing protective gear, are afraid to confront a gunman like the one who killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, we have to ask why such guns are readily available in the U.S.
The AR-15, originally made for the military, has become increasingly popular since the expiration of a federal assault weapons ban in 2004. It is the best selling gun in America, with about 16 million Americans owning one, according to a Washington Post analysis of the gun, posted online Monday. AR-15 were used in over half of the most deadly mass shootings in recent years, including shootings at Uvalde in Texas, Sandy Hook in Connecticut and Parkland in Florida.
After the Uvalde shooting, Congress did act and quickly passed a mix of reforms within a month. It was the first significant change in federal gun law in decades.
The legislation toughened background checks for the youngest gun buyers, will keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and toughened penalties for those who illegally purchase and traffic guns. It also includes additional federal funding to help states enact and manage red flag laws and it increased funding for school safety along with mental health and suicide prevention programs.
These are important reforms, but clearly they are not enough.
“How is this still happening? How are our children still dying and why are we failing them?” Beasley asked outside the Covenant School.
It is a question echoing around America. It is a question that must be answered by Congress — with action, not calls for “thoughts and prayers” — before there is another line of small children being led away from a massacre.