No Child Should Have to Say a Prayer for a Murdered Friend (Published in The Times of Israel)

Can we be realistic for a moment? Almost three weeks after the Parkland massacre, the flurry of conversation about gun control seems to be dying down. Forgive the unintended and tasteless pun; I’m feeling bitter and I’m here to talk about it. We can’t afford to keep launching semantics grenades at each other from the safety of our political camps and in reality, do nothing.

Is there any chance that just this once we could put partisan politics aside and address an issue that is despicably unique to our country and is a crisis that must be resolved before another life is lost?

Even before accurate details emerged following the Parkland shooting, my social media newsfeed was flooded with messages from both sides of the aisle: “Teachers With Guns Could’ve Stopped the Florida Shooter,” “Let’s Protect the President With Thoughts And Prayers, Instead of the Secret Service.” One Republican friend wasted no time citing countless statistics on mass shootings during years in which the country was governed by Democratic presidents, while a Democrat friend posted endless memes mocking the contrived sympathy of Republican lawmakers.

My teenage daughter just returned from BBYO’s international convention in Orlando. More than 3,000 Jewish teens from around the world came to learn and grow, and return to their communities motivated to make a positive impact. This year’s mission, “Together We Will,” shifted toward graver implications when several teens who were scheduled to attend the conference were murdered the day before.

My daughter has friends who attend Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Their lives, and hers, will be forever changed, just like the communities of Columbine, Sandy Hook and too many others.

No child should have to say a prayer for a murdered friend, but that’s just what they did at numerous services during the weekend.

It needs to end.

Mass shootings are a despicable epidemic that is endemic to our country regardless of the political affiliation of our officials in any given year. Politicians on both sides are too busy worrying about the next election and fiercely guarding their decaying seats, instead of once and for all opening their hearts and minds to ensure that Parkland (and now Michigan) is our last shooting-related tragedy.

Gun control is not a one-dimensional issue, and glomming onto singular arguments is naïve. We need extensive, comprehensive and rigorous mental health background checks, along with a ban on assault weapons, a buy-back amnesty program and a long hard look at our culture. What is it that makes certain teenagers believe that shooting up a school is a realistic option? Is it copycatting borne out of the ease with which they can acquire weapons? How do we switch the mental state of would-be shooters who now think this is a viable option?

According to the National Alliance of Mental Health, one in five youths aged 13-18 experiences a severe mental illness at some point, yet the overwhelming majority do not commit heinous crimes. Simply pointing to mental illness stigmatizes those who suffer and distracts from the real issue. While it is a contributing factor and Nikolas Cruz, the Parkland murderer is clearly mentally ill, that alone does not explain his actions.

No one, including the Supreme Court, should dispute the rights of Americans to bear arms, but the Second Amendment, which was ratified in 1791, intended to form militias to curb rebellions (including slave uprisings). It was crafted at a time when the country had no standing army, and when assault weapons did not exist. In 2016 Hillary Clinton said, “I’m not looking to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not looking to take people’s guns away, but I am looking for more support for the reasonable efforts that need to be undertaken to keep guns out of the wrong hands.” Regardless of political bent, why is this approach so hard to grasp?

Many politicians have responded to mass shootings by deflecting the conversation. “Now is not the time to talk about it,” is not good enough. It’s time. Gun control does work. It works in Israel, Australia, Canada, Japan, England, Spain, Sweden, Germany and Denmark. After the Port Arthur massacre, Australia enacted massive reforms, which have prevented further tragedies. Why do we not look to other countries for guidance?

I’ve heard countless advocates for placing ex-military armed guards in schools or arming teachers. Judging by the layout of any typical high school, I’m wondering how many kids and teachers would have to die in a class on one side of the building by the time an armed guard gets from the entrance to the scene of the massacre. Even if teachers had extensive military training, I’m hard pressed to believe that they’d have the wherewithal and time to pull out a gun, and prevent a shooting when suddenly faced with an assault weapon. Those who argue that arming teachers would lessen the death toll have it wrong: The goal is to prevent, not mitigate. To say nothing of the moral and physical imposition of changing their job description from teacher to armed guard. A would-be shooter hell bent on murder, who knows the teachers are armed, would likely shoot the teacher first, leaving all students unprotected. It makes no sense.

If I see one more GIF declaring that guns don’t kill people, people kill people, I’ll scream. Is this really the time for oversimplification and semantics? Words are just words: This shouldn’t be a partisan issue borne out of semantic slogans. Let’s not waste any more time on politicization and self-interest and act before it’s too late. Yet again.


4 Replies to “No Child Should Have to Say a Prayer for a Murdered Friend (Published in The Times of Israel)”

  1. Mr. Harris,the respectable evolution of the woman”s movement has more to do with demographics than Mr. Trudeau. And, while Mr. Trump is awful, Mr. Trudeau is slimy stating he is different by actually being the same. Which NATO member undermined his own Minister? It wasn”t Mr. Trump. So, I disagree with you about kudos deserved of Mr. Trudeau, I think he is parlaying semantics into misdirection on a lot of fronts. Which actually you notice. Great things are happening because of women, respectfully, Mr. Trudeau is advocating the Kinder Morgan going through, which is not one of them.

  2. With all due respect, and I have a lot of that for you, we do not look to other countries for the standard because those standards do not actually work. You have lost your reason by being overwhelmed with emotion.

    True this is not one dimensional at all. There was a failure of Government here I could go into but just think for a second. What gun control would have prevented this? The answer is nothing. Gun control is law. The existing laws failed because government and most importantly the PEOPLE failed. And you expect the government to fix this with more laws? Nope that won’t work.

    I think you have lost sight of the reason for the second amendment. Please let me lay it out again with respect. If we would focus on fixing what is broken, that is government, and the family, and children and respect for God and Country, and the ultra permissiveness, and the utter disrespect for life depicted in movies, the media, music, and video games and social media that would go a long way. There are no instant fixes, this was a long time coming and will take a long time to fix. More gun laws won’t make a dent in it. Repealing the second amendment is exactly what the progressives and the elite want. Don’t kid yourself. Just as you should believe Iran when they say they want to kill you, you should believe the Progressives when they say they do what to take away the second amendment.

    So here is the reason for the 2nd and the reasoning behind having effective weapons to fight with…

    “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”- 2nd Amendment to the US Constitution
    The Second Amendment was written with the idea of the citizens being able to resist the tyranny of the State by force of arms. Having just won a war against the most powerful military at the time, under the command of a tyrannical king, State tyranny was a prominent concern.
    Today, the art and technology of warfare has progressed significantly. Now, instead of firing four shots per minute, rates of fire are fifteen times faster or more. Sometimes significantly more. The average infantryman today carries an amount of firepower that would be mindboggling in 1776. And that is before we get into modern armor, artillery, and air power.
    And this leads to the common question by gun banners.
    “Do people really think they can fight drones with rifles?”
    “Do gun nuts think a militia can fight tanks?”
    “What can rednecks with guns do against the US military?”
    The phrasing always varies, but the message is clear. Obviously, a bunch of crazy civilian gun nuts couldn’t possibly resist the almighty power of the State. Therefore, we shouldn’t be allowed to have arms at all.
    Of course, this reasoning is utterly ridiculous in all respects. From our own revolutionary army who were, let’s face it, militia even when they called themselves the Continental Army, to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan fighting the USSR, to Vietnam, to loathsome ISIS, or the Syrian uprising, non-State belligerents have been giving State forces fits for centuries.
    But let us consider, what if the US Government in its entirety turns on the people and becomes a tyranny. What could we really do about it?
    There are about 316 million people in the US.
    The entire US military, including reserves, is about 2 million.
    There are approximately 120,000 sworn Federal law enforcement officers.
    Estimates place US gun ownership at about 25%. Frankly, that’s probably low because, due to the political climate these days, a lot of gun lawful gun owners won’t admit to owning arms. Even so, that’s 75 million gun owners, before we consider family members who don’t “own” guns but have ready access to those of their spouse or parents.
    There will be a severe disparity of casualties, but even with tanks, artillery, and planes, 2 million cannot subdue 75 million armed people. And don’t forget, a large percentage of that 75 million are themselves veterans.
    And this is all assuming that the entire US military and law enforcement is on the side of the State, and that none of them would honor their oaths and defend the people. In the real world, various studies all indicate that a significant portion of the US military and law enforcement would turn on a tyrannical government.
    And again, this is before we get into the fact that those same soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen, and police would be turning on their own families, friends and countrymen. Before we even consider that the entire logistics apparatus that makes US military so effective is embedded within the very population they’d be trying to oppress.
    In such an unlikely scenario, no, you don’t fight drones and tanks with rifles. You attack maintenance and logistics facilities, mechanics, the entire infrastructure that makes it work. This would not be a stand-up fight, a frontal assault, a Normandy beach. This would be guerilla warfare by militias, in the finest tradition of the Minute Men.
    Civilian gun ownership wouldn’t help. It would be the defining reason why an attempt at totalitarian control would fail.

  3. Well said Erris!! It’s time to come together as a country to solve this problem before another mass school shooting takes place.

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