I grew up in Parkland, Florida and I’m an alumnus of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. This is my high school, this is my hometown, this is the community that raised me. I’ve walked those halls, played basketball in that gym, and eaten lunch in that courtyard.
When I got a text message from a friend and former classmate about a shooting at Stoneman Douglas, I was in disbelief. Could this be true? I had long joked that the most exciting thing about Parkland is the ice-skating rink and mall in neighboring Coral Springs. Nothing ever happens here. It’s quiet, calm, and to my teenage self, totally boring.
I turned on the news and took to social media, searching for information from former teachers and classmates to shed light on the situation and to confirm their safety. Slowly, information started trickling in from the networks: “There is an active shooter at large.” “The school in on lockdown.” “Multiple fatalities have been reported.”
My stomach dropped. I was shocked, horrified, angry — mostly angry. It happened again. And it happened here, in the safest city in Florida.
Never miss a local story.
And as the current death total of 17 stands, this is one of the deadliest mass shootings in American history.
Time and again we turn on the news to the revelation of another mass shooting, and time and again we are told that, “Right now is not the time to discuss politics. Right now is the time to mourn the loss of life from this tragedy.” They are right, to an extent. Now is not the time to discuss mass school shootings. The time for that was in 2012 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting and in the 291 school shootings since then. The time for that is long gone. Now is the time to get Congress and the state of Florida to act.
We know how to prevent gun violence. We know that we need to pass common-sense laws that prevent guns from getting into the hands of the wrong people. We know that AR-15s are to blame for mass shootings in Las Vegas, Sandy Hook and now Stoneman Douglas. We know we need to better integrate mental-health services into our healthcare systems and increase access to those services in general. We know what we have to do. Why can’t we get this done?
We have a Republican-led Congress and a governor who have consistently blocked gun-control legislation. We have a Republican-led Congress and a governor who warmly accept millions of dollars from the National Rifle Association. The NRA is so in love with Gov. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio that it even gave them “A+” ratings and endorsements for their voting records on the Second Amendment.
It’s time for this love affair to end.
When the safest city is struck with such a horrific act of gun violence, it’s time to rethink our approach to safety. It’s time Americans started saving themselves from their own Congress.
As I watch my high school and community mourn the loss of innocent life from another senseless act of gun violence, I keep wondering how I can support them when I’m so far from home, living in California.
Here’s what you can do to help my hometown: Call elected leaders. Call them and demand they take action now to prevent future tragedies from gun violence from occurring. Keep calling them until you see that action come to fruition.
The time to act has long passed. Now is the time to rectify our past failures, for Sandy Hook and Stoneman Douglas — and every other mass shooting in between.
Sonya Salimy graduated from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2011..