A child weeps while on the bus leaving The Covenant School following a mass shooting at the school in Nashville, Tennessee, Monday. Credit: Nicole Hester / The Tennessean via AP

The BDN Opinion section operates independently and does not set newsroom policies or contribute to reporting or editing articles elsewhere in the newspaper or on bangordailynews.com.

Susan Young is the Bangor Daily News opinion editor.

There have been so many mass shootings in recent years it is hard to know why the school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, is hitting many of us so hard.

Perhaps it was the gut-wrenching photo of a young girl on a school bus, her face contorted with anguish, her hand held up to the window. Perhaps it was the photos and videos of small children holding hands while being led to safety.

Maybe it’s the photos of the three young children smiling back at us, knowing that those smiles have been snuffed out forever. Maybe it’s the pictures of the janitor, teacher and head of school, who were just doing their jobs Monday and will now never see their families again.

Whatever it is, we can’t be lulled back into complacency. Mass shootings are not normal. Other countries have violent video games, people with mental health needs, people who dress in drag, schools without prayer — whatever the next excuse is for the violence we, for some reason, tolerate. But, those countries don’t have 131 mass shootings in less than three months. Young children don’t kill their siblings or themselves with guns that were left unsecured, something that happens with shocking regularity in the United States.

Gun violence is the top killer of children and teens in the United States.

So, if our elected representatives truly care about protecting our children, they have to start by addressing their number one killer. Guns. Not LGBTQ people. Not books. Not naked statues.

While many Americans, including the Bangor Daily News editorial board, have renewed their calls for tougher restrictions on guns and ammunition, those who oppose such moves are repeating the usual excuses for why such moves aren’t possible or won’t work.

“We’re not going to fix it,” Tennessee Republican U.S. Rep. Tim Burchett, said when asked about the shooting on Monday. “Criminals are going to be criminals.”

By that rationale, we shouldn’t have any laws at all. Speed limits are broken all the time, so why do we have them? There are robberies every day, so why do we put people in jail for burglary? People have been dressing in drag for centuries (and will continue to do so), so why put so much energy into passing laws to restrict or prevent drag shows? Women will continue to have abortions whether they are legal or not (but more women will die if they are outlawed), so why invest so much time into making them illegal?

Then there are those who argue that if we took away all the guns, people would still find a way to kill one another. Sadly, this is true. But, when other things have been used to murder people, we’ve often taken action.

There are restrictions in many states and cities on what types of knives you can carry and where you can take them. After fertilizer was used to make explosives, sales of fertilizer were restricted. We still take our shoes off in airports and put our liquids in small bottles because of terrorists who tried to blow up airplanes.

And, for those who believe the gender of the shooter in Nashville (the 28-year-old was transgender, according to police) is the reason for Monday’s violence, I have to wonder why they didn’t blame masculinity for the 98 percent — or more — of mass shootings committed by cisgender males.

I know what the Second Amendment says (including the part about a “well regulated militia”). But we can’t allow absolute fealty to words written nearly 250 years ago take precedence over trying to save people, to prevent the murders of children.

Smug “logic” from politicians like Burchett that we “can’t legislate evil” isn’t logic at all. It is capitulation to the gun industry that profits from the mayhem, convincing many Americans that the only way to be safe is to purchase more guns. It is a capitulation to the idea that being tough means posing with guns (and posing your children with guns) or posting memes on social media daring people — especially Democrats — to come take your guns away. It is a capitulation to those who want us to forget the dead children, to accept that daily slaughter is the price we have to pay for some vague notion of freedom.

Yet, even as members of Congress this week pleaded with their colleagues to consider restrictions on guns and ammunition, many Republicans continued to focus on the supposed dangers transgender peopledrag queens, public urination and books.

It is crass, but as U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, a Florida Democrat, said this week, “dead kids can’t read.”

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Susan Young

Susan Young is the opinion editor at the Bangor Daily News. She has worked for the BDN for over 25 years as a reporter and editor.