A gunman recently massacred 19 children and two teachers with a legally-obtained AR-15-style rifle at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a small town of about 16,000. A shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people only four years ago. The Uvalde shooting occurred a decade after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut left 26 people dead.
Shouldn’t a child be safe at school? Aren’t we tired of “thoughts and prayers” for the families of these children?
This is not about the Second Amendment because the answer is right in front of us. Our founders envisioned a well regulated militia, not the AR-15, which can carry high capacity magazines and is far too easy to obtain nowadays. We know Texas has a gun culture unlike many others, and Gov. Greg Abbott signed a law last year making Texas a Second Amendment sanctuary for federal gun laws.
This is about governance. Our leaders — Republicans and Democrats — need to stand up for the children who are not with us and won’t have a chance to grow up and have their own family.
Unfortunately, the death of these children has repeatedly been treated as collateral damage that we incur for our right to own a firearm.
One state should not set the tone for the other 49 states. The leaders in Texas have dismissed calls for tightening gun laws and have only talked about improving school security and mental health counseling without dealing with the harder questions that require choices. The answers are before us: raise the age to 25 to buy an AR-15 and raise the age to own a gun from 18 to 21.
The person who murdered all those children in Uvalde was not old enough to order a beer, but he obtained a military-style rifle. We need to close the loopholes on internet sales and gun show purchases, strengthen background checks and require them for anyone who wants to purchase a gun. We need to ban all assault style rifles. Does someone really need an AR-15 to go hunting? No one needs a gun like that.
President Joe Biden recently called on Congress to “enact safe storage laws, and repeal the immunity that protects gun manufactures from liability.”
Recently the media noted that the shooter at Robb Elementary has been sued and hinted potential action against the gunmaker. We can solve this problem and no more children need to die. Congress has it within its power to make these changes.
The deaths of these children need to count more than the NRA endorsement. Our elected officials have it within their power to pass legislation that will make a difference. Or are these deaths just “collateral damage?”
The parents and grandparents of these children know what the right answer is for the children who will not be there for Christmas and birthdays. And they will understand better than the rest of us why changes need to be made.
Can it happen here? It already has at a Seattle coffee shop, a Marysville high school, and a Mukilteo party. According to a Seattle Times editorial, lawmakers must also give extreme protection orders, which are useful in suicide and violence prevention. These extreme risk protection orders, or “red flag laws,” were overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016. These protection orders have not been used as frequently as they should, as 16 counties have not filed any ERPOS, as they are called.
So far, only King County has set up the kind of robust multiagency coordination needed to implement and respond to protection orders led by Sandra Shanahan, who heads the Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Enforcement Unit. But King County, with more resources, should be able to consult with rural areas. State lawmakers recently created the Office Firearm Safety and Violence Prevention to help combat gun violence. Other states should learn from the efforts of King County and our lawmakers.
Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.