Closson: Don’t forget Florida

Troy Closson, Opinion Editor

Each time another mass shooting occurs in the U.S., we withdraw into the same unproductive pattern: politicians offer up their condolences, debates break out on social media over whether it’s too soon to initiate gun control conversations and then a few weeks later, we move it into a distant memory.

Until another shooting happens and we start over.

Just last month, two students were killed and many more were injured in a Kentucky high school shooting that already feels five miles back in our rear-view mirrors. And mass shootings in Orlando, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and San Bernardino — among countless others — have turned into anecdotes.

On Wednesday, at least 17 people were killed by a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida during the 30th mass shooting of 2018. Arrest reports indicate the gunman was armed with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle that he purchased himself in February 2017. And counting the Parkland shooting, the past five months have seen three of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history.

Following tragedies like this, it’s understandably necessary to take time to focus on the families, victims and others impacted. Still, with the rate that mass shootings occur in this country, they’ll always be “too recent” to start talking about gun control — that can’t be an excuse for inaction anymore.

Per usual, however, Republicans in Congress haven’t done anything substantial, instead just reminding us not to “politicize” tragedies or bring up policy reform that could prevent more people from dying. And they just follow the example set by the Trump administration: rather than offer tangible solutions, Trump continued to offer inconsequential condolences and sympathies Thursday.

Instead of addressing the most apparent factor in each of these shootings — guns — Trump made no mention of gun control, instead subjecting families in Florida to a generic commitment to work to “tackle the difficult issue of mental health.” These pointless statements came despite the fact that his administration has largely moved to cut funding from mental health programs and community health services providers, and has also made it easier for people with mental illness to acquire firearms after rolling back a ban on gun purchases by people who receive disability checks for mental illness.

We need to stop playing. Mass shootings all have one thing in common and it’s not that shooters play too many violent video games, as Kentucky governor Matt Bevin pointed to as a cause of the Parkland shooting. Guns are the issue, and nothing will change unless we can stop pretending they’re not the problem here. It shouldn’t be that hard to understand.

Responding in the way Trump, Bevin and many other Republican politicians have isn’t just pathetic and disgraceful, but also plainly disrespectful to the families of children killed by gun violence. It makes no sense how people’s lives are a partisan issue — well, until you consider the National Rifle Association contributed millions to Republican political campaigns in 2016.

Growing up, my parents often mentioned Columbine as the sole well-known example of a school shooting, pointing to it in safety discussions. Now, they happen regularly — but that’ll never change unless we stop forgetting mass shootings two weeks after they happen and actually address the issue.

Troy Closson is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.