Op Ed: Our Bloody Valentine, Let's Build a Wall—Against the Gun Lobby

LA Times

A half hour from my house, another school shooting happened. That adds up to 32 shootings since 1990, it's simple elementary math. Not sure if my elected officials are counting, but I am.

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Today police presence were at my children's’ schools, which created an eerie and unsettling feeling. First, we experienced Newtown, which is about twenty minutes away from our own home. We had moved to a suburban Connecticut town precisely for the schools. And yet, in Sandy Hook Elementary kids as young as mine, who had baby teeth, laces tied, crayons ready to color the future were coldly gunned down. Twenty-six fatalities. In one first grade room, only one survived by playing dead. Later she told her mother: “Mommy, I’m ok. All my friends are dead.”

This week, we have Parkland’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School which is forty minutes from my house. The shooting took place on Valentine’s Day, our romantic dinner plans were scrapped for a family dinner. But I lost my appetite and just picked a couple bites off my kids’ plates. That night, I barely slept. I woke up throughout the night, running full-color nightmares in my head while staring at four dark walls. We have colleagues who graduated from Stoneman Douglas. We have a friend who knows the principal. According to a Wall Street Journal investigation, out of the 32 cases of school shootings since 1990 (not including colleges), 106 victims have lost their lives, more than 200 have been physically injured and millions have been emotionally scarred. The shootings have spanned 20 states, mostly suburban. I am sick of adding up these numbers and I am sure many share my sentiment.

Since Sandy Hook, numerous proposals to restrict semi-automatic weapons and close loop-holes have been debated, but for the most part, they have faced a rapid-fire death on the Senate floor. Trump’s immediate words this week were stirring, he spoke directly to children and addressed their loneliness, stressing that they need to find a parent, teacher, church leader to turn to. But he never addressed the deadly toys making their way into the hands of youngsters. And he calls himself a renegade? If he wants to build a wall, let him build one against semi-automatic weapons, their makers, their lobbyists. Do Donald and Melania worry about Barron in school? Does Melania have trouble going to sleep after another school shooting?

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Parkland’s shooter had been in a mental health facility for almost a year. How did he pass a background check when he purchased a gun last February? His life was punctuated by sadness, witnessing his adoptive father died of a heart attack when he was only five, suffering from impulse, anger, and mental issues, losing his adoptive mother to pneumonia this November and then reportedly being dumped by a girlfriend. Another boy felt so sorry for him that he convinced his parents to let the shooter stay at their home. That couple actually let the shooter bring his AR-15, semi-automatic rifle into their home. This was not a teddy bear lulling him to sleep. This was a weapon of war turning lives into nightmares.

Four out of the last five deadliest mass shootings in modern history that have taken place since 2012 utilized AR-15. This is a rapid-fire, relatively light-weight, low-recoil, high-capacity magazine weapon. I understand hunting is a sport: I don’t think you need an AR-15 to shoot a moose. It does not belong in the prairies. It does not belong in schools or in concerts or in stores or in movie theaters. It does not belong in a 19-year old’s closet. If our legislators won’t address this, it’s time we mothers, fathers, community leaders and educators force change. While we need to continue to help those that suffer from mental health problems, we also need to address that guns are also the problem.

I had immediately posted on FB that there are too many groups—mostly started by parents—that raise money and awareness and make noise on amending our second amendment, but until we have one organization large enough, cohesive enough and well-funded enough, we will lose the battle with the gun lobby. And we know their name: the NRA. They have over 5 million members and over $300 million in revenue. After Columbine, they went from proselytizing that guns have no place in our schools to their new mantra of “arm the teachers.” An asinine idea. Did these NRA leaders even graduate from high school?

Teachers have enough work on their plates, they spend their evenings grading papers, and now the NRA is suggesting they spend their evenings at the shooting range? Let’s look at the groups lobbying Congress against gun violence and gun restrictions: Sandy Hook Promise, Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action Against Gun Safety in America. The list goes on. And while they have won small victories, they are too many, too unknown, too splintered. It’s not like we don’t have precedents or templates. Look at how well organized Planned Parenthood has been through the decades in securing affordable and accessible women’s health and in protecting our reproductive rights. We need a group that will force a change in the way MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) did in the 1980s. Since their inception, the group claims drunk driving has been reduced by half.

Are we mad yet?

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Recently a couple of fed up, activist women in my neighborhood started a chain email asking us to begin an organization called the MAFIA (Mothers Against Firearms in America). I’m not sure if the answer is for all of us to join Everytown or form the MAFIA. What I do know is that it will take something as coordinated and resolute as the mafia to weaken the political power of the NRA, the gun makers and those that don’t care about children. I don’t want to add up any more shootings. 

CAROLINA BUIA BAREFOOT is a former journalist and now successful blogger at BarefootPalmBeach.com. She is also a residential real estate specialist in Palm Beach.She is a mother of four children in elementary and middle school.