Fred Kowal: Guns

May 24, 2018

Another school, another shooting.

Last week, eight students and two teachers were gunned down at the Santa Fe High School in Texas. Arrested was a 17-year-old student, who police say taunted and terrorized his victims before his capture—after a 25-minute shootout with police.

The Texas shooting comes nearly two months after millions marched in Washington, D.C., and all over the U.S., in the March for Our Lives to call for gun restrictions and help end the onslaught of mass shootings in America.

A month earlier, 17 people were killed in the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

For that matter, it’s been seven months since the massacre in Las Vegas, nearly two years since the massacre in Orlando, nearly three years since the massacre in Charleston, over five years since children were massacred in Sandy Hook, and eleven years since college students were massacred at Virginia Tech.

The list goes on and on… and meanwhile, in the streets of America’s cities, from Baltimore to Chicago, the number of the dead rises without end. Usually, those deaths are met with little more than complacency from the public and condolences from politicians.

In the aftermath of Parkland, amid the torrent of tears shed by victims’ families and speeches by political leaders, America’s young people began showing us the way.

The millions who have protested, advocated, and confronted government officials—up to and including the president of the United States—in an effort to stem the tide of gun violence must serve to inspire us with hope for the future, while calling all of us to task for our inaction.

I am a gun owner. But I won’t be for much longer. Though I have lived in areas of the country, such as Montana and upstate New York, where gun ownership is seen as part of our heritage, I have concluded that this heritage has been compromised by the gun industry, by the National Rifle Association and its political allies.

I will not be a part of what has become a sickening pattern in our nation: A mass killing occurs, political leaders call for action—or for no action—in the time of “grieving,” while asking their personal version of a deity to bless the victims. Time passes, the story falls out of the news cycle, and nothing changes.

The Washington Post recently reported a chilling statistic: in 2018, more people have been killed at schools than while serving in the military.

Some of the solutions—let alone the reasons for the violence—being tossed around are beyond madness. To call for teachers to be armed, as Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick did after the Santa Fe shooting, is frankly insane. Patrick said guns weren’t to blame for the massacre; he pinned it on violent video games and abortions.

As a SUNY Cobleskill professor, I can be trusted to teach political science. Carrying a weapon in a crisis situation in a packed school, that’s another story.  It’s the apex of cynicism to advocate for arming teachers in the classroom; all it means is more profits for gun makers, more votes for politicians in debt to gun rights advocates, and more inevitable mass killings.

Despite this, America’s youth have risen up. They accept the reality that incremental change is still change—and change for the better. They reject the gutless denials from those who hide behind the false rhetoric of constitutional rights. And they will stand against the vile accusations of those who claim that these mass killings simply did not happen.

Let us not let the energy of the March for Our Lives dissipate. Let us not allow Santa Fe, Texas to be simply another incident exposing the failure of our own political leaders—and all of us. Above all, we must not fail our children. For they will be the ones that inherit this damaged world.

Dr. Fred Kowal is President of the 35,000 member United University Professions, which represents faculty on 29 New York State Campuses. UUP is an affiliate of NYSUT, The American Federation of Teachers, The National Education Association and the AFL-CIO.

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