Public officials are failing to protect children from gun violence. That stops now

By The Tribune Editorial Board

The Florida high school shooting in photos

A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida Feb. 14 left 17 dead.
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A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida Feb. 14 left 17 dead.

“There are no words.”

That’s a phrase we’ve heard often over recent hours, as Americans reacted to the latest mass shooting in the United States — one that stole the lives of at least 17 people, many of them teenagers.

There are no words — and that’s absolutely fitting, because the words so often shared following incidents like this one have accomplished nothing.

Words like, “Never again!”

Words like, “Something has to be done!”

Words like, “If only there had been such-and-such a law in place!”

We don’t need more of those words. We are sick and tired of them.

We need anger, we need action and we need to hold our elected officials accountable, because these mass shootings that seem to be occurring almost every week are destroying way too many lives.

This time, the rampage happened at a high school in Broward County, Florida, but no place is safe — not baseball fields or movie theaters or concerts or even churches.

If we truly want to put a stop to this insanity, there are two paths we could take:

1. Arm everyone to the teeth.

You want to be a teacher or a theater usher or a Little League coach? Then you had better pass a firearms qualification test and carry a weapon at all times, because you’re the designated “good guy with a gun.”

Word of warning: We should all be prepared for some collateral damage, because even the most well-intentioned “guys with guns” can make mistakes.

Also, if you are a “good guy with a gun,” be prepared to become collateral damage yourself when police mistake you for the actual shooter.

2. Enact effective gun control legislation, not just in some states, but throughout the nation.

At a minimum, that means keeping guns away from people with a history of committing acts of violence or of threatening acts of violence, and banning semiautomatic weapons once and for all. And by all means, improve mental health screening and treatment to reach ALL communities.

There are many people who still insist No. 1 is the answer.

We don’t. We stand with the 51 percent of Americans who support stricter gun control legislation — a majority that will almost certainly increase in the coming days, as we take in the full horror of the Florida shooting.

We don’t have a laundry list of what should or should not be included in a gun-control package; it’s the job of public officials to examine the options and choose the best ones.

Yet instead of doing their job, they’ve been looking for scapegoats everywhere but the most obvious places, as President Donald Trump did when he took to Twitter following the Florida shooting:

“Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”

What a shameful way to deflect blame.

Students and faculty talk about the moments when a shooter entered Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and opened fire.

In this case, the FBI was made aware of at least one online threat posted by the suspected shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, though the agency was unable to track it. It’s also been reported that Cruz’s mother, who died a few months ago, called police about her troubled son, in the hope they could talk some sense into him.

That didn’t work; the system failed to keep the children of Broward County safe. Someone who should never have had access to any weapon — let alone an assault weapon capable of mowing people down — was able to walk onto a campus, kill at least 17 people and irrevocably change the lives of many, many more.

If we are sincere in wanting to stop this from ever happening again — or at least trying to make it happen less often — words alone won’t do.

It’s beyond time to get angry, and, more importantly, stay angry.

It’s time to demand greater responsibility from gun manufacturers and the NRA as they once again shrug their shoulders and dodge their complicity in what has become a recurring American tragedy.

It’s time to demand action from our public officials; and, if we don’t get it, to hold them accountable for their failure.

Keeping our children safe should be the No. 1 priority of elected officials — not tax cuts or trade deals or infrastructure packages — whether they are in Sacramento or Washington, D.C.

If they aren’t up to that task, it’s time we replaced them with others who are.

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