“Each day is another chance to do the things I should’ve done the day before but didn’t and known I could’ve” – Phonte
Like the majority of the nation, Sunday morning greeted me with news of the largest mass shooting in American history. Mass shooting doesn’t seem appropriate for what took place inside of Orlando’s Pulse nightclub. It was a targeted massacre of our LGBTQ brothers and sisters–many casualties being people of color.
Of course we’ve been here before. Almost too many times to count. President Obama has addressed the nation after a mass shooting almost every six months for the duration of his presidency–fourteen mass shootings to be exact. Fourteen times. And each time, the script is stuck to by all parties. It’s a broken record of inaction. President Obama acknowledged as much after addressing a shooting at an Oregon community college last October.
“Somehow this has become routine,” he said back then. “The reporting has become routine. My response here, from this podium, has become routine.”
After the Orlando shooting on Sunday, President Obama once again said America’s inaction on guns has been a deadly choice.
“This massacre is therefore a further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school, or in a house of worship, or a movie theater, or in a nightclub,” the president told reporters. “And we have to decide if that’s the kind of country we want to be. And to actively do nothing is a decision as well.”
Each time it’s the same. Mass shooting. Statement from the president. Call for action. Reactions rejecting calls for action. Leaders asking for calm and offering thoughts and prayers.
Wash, rinse, repeat.
It’s the latter that makes me sad and angry. It’s one thing for rank and file citizens to offer thoughts and prayers after a tragedy, but quite another for legislators to tweet 140 character condolences and prayers for peace while shirking responsibility to prevent future incidents.
I’m not the only one who’s disillusioned by the lack of inaction by lawmakers; Connecticut Congressman Jim Himes is fed up too.
I will not attend one more”Moment of Silence” on the Floor. Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them. pic.twitter.com/VWWdOkliWN
— Jim Himes (@jahimes) June 13, 2016
But what about his Congressional colleagues?
We’ve seen this movie before. December 14, 2012. After the nation watched in horror as a lone gunman murdered children between the ages of six and seven along with several staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, I thought, that was the moment we would get some degree of meaningful legislation to combat gun violence. After all, we deal with news of adults killed by gun violence on a near-daily basis, but there was no way America would sit by idly and allow children to be slaughtered without significant change.
The fact that I have to write this at all says otherwise. Despite the White House rolling out an ambitious set of policy proposals, such as eliminating the sale of armor piercing bullets and reinstating a ban on assault weapons, no meaningful gun control legislation was passed – in spite of broad support among the American people. The same legislators who tweeted condolences to Sandy Hook yesterday, and tweet condolences to the Pulse nightclub victims today, will turn around and drive a stake through the heart of gun reform efforts tomorrow.
That is simply unacceptable. In tragedy, we have another opportunity to get it right this time. Where we’ve failed in so many other cases–like a movie theater shooting; or when a white supremacist walks into a historic Black church; or the south and west sides of Chicago and other major cities.
Every. Single. Weekend.
Oh, and for the crowd that always tries to derail the discussion and talk about everything but guns, we can also talk about the toxic environment that makes the hatred of the LGBTQ community – hatred that makes a man angry enough to kill – possible. When there are entire cottage industries backed by junk science claiming to “pray away the gay” and pastors calling for the extermination of gay people, we need not be surprised that somebody would act on the idea that our LGBTQ brothers and sisters should be killed simply for being. But at the end of the day, toxic speech is still merely toxic speech without weapons of mass destruction being easily accessible. Assault rifles, like the one used in Orlando, are called “assault” weapons for a reason. When manufacturers start making “protection rifles,” we can have a different conversation.
We’ve done enough praying, t-shirt printing, tweeting, candle lighting, marching and eulogizing. And if we continue to stick to the script, we’ll be saying, “This shouldn’t happen again” the next time it happens again. And the time after that and the time after that.
It’s my hope that where we failed to come together for children after Sandy Hook, we will use this horrific moment to finally get it right. If our legislators won’t come together to pass meaningful gun reform, it’s time we elect some that will. We stand at a crossroads — again. We can talk about policies that make for great soundbites, like closing borders, good guys with guns or getting tough on mysterious bad guys.
Or we can do real things that limit the flood of guns in our neighborhoods that kill our men, women and children, every single day.
AJ Springer is a writer, questioner of everything and lover of good conversation. Follow him on Twitter @JustAnt1914