It was a Happy Valentine’s Day, a sad anniversary.
It has been one year since the tragic shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., where 17 high school students and personnel were killed and 17 more were injured. Valentine’s Day will never be the same for that community.
The reaction initiated by the students at MSDHS and their subsequent March for Our Lives has resulted in mobilizing students and citizens in general across the country.
A law requiring background checks for gun purchases and closing loopholes for Internet and gun show purchases is about to be signed into law. This bill, HR8, has bipartisan support of between 80 and 90 percent of citizens across the country. This is a first step in federal legislation since the Columbine High School shooting of April 20, 1999.
Guns killed nearly 40,000 people in 2018, according to information provided by Kevin G. Hall in the Miami Herald on Feb. 12. This equals a Parkland Shooting every five days.
An organization called the Murder Accountability Project has formed a publication called The Trace. In it they list the stories of those who were killed in gun violence in the last 12 months. This list includes those who died in school shootings, drive-by shootings, accidental shootings, suicides and murders. To read them is to weep.
Also in the past year, efforts inspired by the Parkland students included the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24, 2018, and meeting with President Trump.
In 2018, 67 gun control legislations have been passed in 27 states as a result of these inspiring young people and their actions.
According to the Giffords Law Center – a foundation founded by U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords who was shot at close range in 2011 – the number of state legislations restricting gun access passed in 2018 success was unparalleled. These laws included states banning the sales of bump stocks and allowing authorities to temporarily disarm potentially violent people under “red flag” laws.
This is in contrast to laws passed since the Sandy Hook mass shooting of Dec. 14, 2012, which killed 20 first graders and six adults. Those laws actually expanded gun use – included permit-less carry – and calls to arm teachers. Even in 2018, 10 laws expanding gun access passed in 7 states, including allowing guns in K-12 schools and bolstering “stand your ground” laws.
Deaths to gun violence continued to rise.
After the mass shooting in Las Vegas, which killed 58 people and wounded 851 by the use of bump stocks, a device that converts a semiautomatic weapon to a more rapid fire weapon, Hawaii Governor David Ige signed a law banning bump stocks.
In proposing this regulation, Lawmaker Karl Rhoads pointed out that bump stocks could enable a semiautomatic weapon fire as if it were fully automatic. “They are not used by hunters. They only serve to make a semiautomatic weapon a mass-murder tool,” according to Rhoads.
As a result of the actions of the Parkland students 10 states have passed laws banning bump stocks.
Our Second Amendment guarantees the right to bear arms. Common sense legislation stipulating regulations is not an infringement on that right, anymore than driving regulations infringe on a driver’s rights. With rights come responsibilities. Are the laws that have now been passed going to stop “bad guys”? Are drivers’ licenses going to prevent an unlicensed driver from driving? No. But it at least gives law enforcement a right to arrest.
Law abiding gun owners have no cause to fear the Second Amendment is in jeopardy, just as law abiding drivers need not fear driving rights are threatened.
In the state of Hawaii 1,420,409 guns were registered as of 2014. (North Carolina has 165,170 as of 2018.) Yet Hawaii has the lowest rate of gun violence in the country. In 2015 it had 2.6 gun deaths per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 11.8. (In Alaska the rate is 19.2 gun deaths per 100,000 residents.)
Hawaii has a lot of positive influences in its culture: low unemployment, an easygoing aloha lifestyle and ideal weather – but also the tightest gun laws in the nation. In addition to background checks, all guns must be registered. And although they must be registered, the number of guns registered to a person is not limited.
Parkland students and those who joined them across the country who inspired lawmakers to take legislative action are to be applauded. They were able to move years of federal inaction toward taking common sense steps to gun safety measures.
They continue with their “Never Again” movement.
Meanwhile the leaders of the Sandy Hook Promise Organization have taken action in several other directions. They work with school students and others to teach them to watch for signs of potential violence: to “Start with Hello” and to “Say Something if You See Something.”
National Say Something Week is Feb. 25-March 1. Research and “Monday-morning quarterbacking” have determined that signs indicating potential violence were missed in most cases. This effort teaches to recognize warning signs and report them before it is too late. (See related article.)
Ann vonHoorn is a Tideland News contributor.