I know a high-school senior who hadn’t heard the awful news from Parkland before he got home Wednesday. He stared at the television and said, “What?”
And, moments later, shaking his head: “What the hell?”
This young man doesn’t know anyone who goes to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, though it’s not far away. His own father had grown up in Broward County, and so had his father’s father.
All afternoon the death count went up. The early news reports said one fatality, then seven, then “numerous,” and then — by late evening — the sickening toll was 17 dead and many wounded.
Never miss a local story.
“I’m scared to go to school,” the young man said.
Yet the next morning, like millions of other students, he got up and went to school. And his heartsick parents, like millions of others, urged him to be careful, be alert, know where to hide and when to run.
Because this is how we live today in America, where any demented soul can get his hands on an AR-15.
It isn’t enough to lecture our kids about wearing seat belts, or not texting while they drive. Now we need to lecture them about what to do when bullets start flying.
They’re not perfectly safe in school. Or at the movies. Or at a concert. Or at the mall. Or even inside a church.
Columbine, Aurora, Blacksburg, Newtown, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Bernardino, Sutherland Springs and many more — the town of Parkland goes high on the worst-ever list of domestic gun massacres, and the list will grow.
By now, each new horror story arrives with a crushing familiarity, capped by the same pathetic, canned responses from do-nothing political leaders. After every bloodbath, they recycle a well-practiced script.
Gov. Rick Scott showed up in front of the microphones at Parkland to condemn the latest massacre as “pure evil.” That’s basically all he has in the bag.
Scott carries an A+ rating from the NRA, which lustily endorsed his reelection campaign with the following praise: “Rick has signed more pro-gun bills into law in one term than any other governor in Florida history.”
He didn’t mention that after the Pulse nightclub slaughter, or the mass shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport. He didn’t bring it up the other night, either, though I bet it will be a topic of interest during his upcoming run for the Senate.
Poised beside the governor in Parkland was Attorney General Pam Bondi, another darling of the NRA.
A few years ago she joined a failed Republican push to allow 18- to 20-year-olds to buy handguns and ammo. (They can already legally purchase long guns, which is how the alleged Parkland shooter acquired his assault rifle last year at age 18.)
Guess what Bondi came to offer the families of the murdered teens at Douglas High: free funerals.
I wish I was making that up, but I’m not.
Sorry for your loss, folks. Now that your children are dead, we’ll take good care of them.
Meanwhile, expressing boilerplate sympathy on Twitter was Sen. Marco Rubio, aka “the $3 million man.” That’s how much he has collected in NRA donations, putting him sixth among the top 10 beneficiaries of the Washington gun lobby.
Rubio’s reaction to Parkland was the same as with all mass shootings — it’s just too darn early to talk about tougher gun controls. We need more facts!
Count on him to vanish from the debate until the next tragedy.
Remember, he once helped kill legislation that would have banned persons on U.S. terror watch lists from buying firearms. That, friends, is how you earn an A+ from the NRA.
Even if GOP leaders miraculously sprouted testicles and passed a bill making it harder to buy assault rifles, the legislation wouldn’t likely get past President Donald Trump. He, too, bows to the NRA, which spent more than $30 million helping him win the White House.
Ironically, McClatchy reports that the FBI is investigating whether some of that NRA money for the Trump campaign illegally came from Russia. Whatever the source, it won’t erase the president’s enormous political debt to the gun lobby.
Hours after the Valentine’s Day shooting, he tweeted that no child “should ever feel unsafe in an American school.” For God’s sake, how can they not?
The high-school senior in our house noticed extra police cars on campus the next morning. In every class, shaken students were talking about Parkland. A teacher broke down and wept.
But at least they all came home from school alive.
Which, in these times, we call a good day.