Fabiola Santiago

After another mass shooting, Congress should stand with the American people, not NRA

Passengers run for cover at FLL airport

Passengers run for cover following a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
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Passengers run for cover following a shooting at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

Dear U.S. House of Representatives,

We don’t need your meaningless thoughts and prayers.

We don’t need your empty moment of silence.

What the American public, the survivors and the victims of the gun-violence epidemic gripping this country desperately need is for you to stop being the errand boys and girls of the NRA.

How about if, for once, as beholden as you are to the National Rifle Association that so generously funds your political campaigns, you don’t stand ready to quash any legislation that limits access to weapons? How about if, instead of engaging in political warfare, you take meaningful bipartisan action to keep guns out of the hands of would-be terrorists and the mentally ill?

The solution to one mass killing after another is that simple. Typically, the shooter is either one or the other.

It’s more than clear that the least you can do is adopt regulations that prohibit people from flying — and certainly, from gaining access to guns — if they’ve come to the FBI’s attention for good reason.

The Pulse nightclub killer in Orlando, Omar Mateen, and now, the war veteran shooter in Fort Lauderdale, Esteban Santiago, had one thing in common: They both were known to the FBI — yet they were able to use weapons to carry out their monstrous plans to kill innocents.

In the case of Santiago, it was downright negligent of Alaska law enforcement to return a gun to a disturbed veteran with an already extensive rap sheet of domestic violence, a man who reported he was hearing voices that were forcing him to watch Islamic State propaganda.

The background of this case unearthed by Miami Herald reporters is evidence of the need for reform in several areas.

But you, the House of Representatives, who should be protecting the American people, peddle cliché instead, and in the process you dull our collective senses to the real outrage we should all be feeling at this latest mass shooting. This time, most of the victims were older people who had flown to Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport to enjoy a family cruise to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, life.

“We cannot accept a world in which we don’t have time to mourn lives lost in one shooting before another occurs,” Rep. Ted Deutch, a Fort Lauderdale Democrat, said in a statement to the deaf ears of his Republican colleagues. “After the tragedy last summer at Pulse nightclub, after the many stories I’ve heard from constituents affected by gun violence, and now even more than ever after Friday’s shooting at the Fort Lauderdale airport, I want no more of these tragedies in my community. I want no more of this unbearable pain in any community. Inaction is no longer an acceptable response.”

Can’t you see that Americans no longer live in peace?

After Newtown, we drop off our children, from primary school to college, with fear in our hearts. Will they be safe, or God forbid, will it be our turn to experience the aftermath of a madman’s bullet or a criminal’s errant one in the neighborhood? School lockdowns have become scary, weekly events in South Florida. I know one mother who is delaying that first day of school as long as possible and home-schooling a pre-kindergartner for one reason: Fear. She was pregnant and close to her due date at the time Adam Lanza killed 20 angelic first-graders and six educators in 2012.

Our children are in the path of evil that could be curtailed and contained but isn’t, because of the lack of action in Congress.

After Aurora, when James Egan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 70 others with high-powered military weaponry at a movie premiere, who doesn’t go to the theater with trepidation and look around in the darkness for weird behavior?

The gun-worshipping culture in this country must change to one of respect, responsibility, and safety — or we’ll continue mourning innocents.

“Sadly,” Deutch said, “there is now a routine that Congress follows: shocking news of a deadly shooting, followed by conveyance of thoughts and prayers, followed by a moment of silence on the House floor. These moments of silence are a respectful way to reflect on the lives that were taken so tragically. But to truly honor the victims of this and other gun violence, moments of silence must be followed by productive discussions on what meaningful actions should be taken to address the crisis of gun violence.”

The congressman is being too kind to colleagues, who talk their way out of every reasonable proposal to stem gun violence, despite the fact that Americans support most of the proposed gun-control measures.

There’s no good reason why Congress can’t agree to the premise that the mentally ill and people on terror watch lists shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, much less build arsenals. And certainly, we must treat seriously our veterans’ post traumatic stress disorder and offer them more than a four-day hospital stay and a gun back, as was done with Santiago.

“If we can’t take these simple, sensible first steps, we will never succeed in preventing shootings like this in the future,” Deutch said. “Thoughts and prayers will be all we have to give, and that's just not enough.”

Not only are thoughts and prayers from elected officials not enough, they’re down right hypocritical.