This is the third and final blog on common good voting as we prepare for our national election.
“In the U.S. we will advocate for common-sense gun control laws such as requiring universal background checks before purchasing arms, banning assault weapons and high capacity magazines, promoting strategies to prevent gun violence, and provide adequate financial resources to establish mental health programs for victims and predators and prevention for at-risk people.”
Dominican Sisters of Peace and Associates 2013
They are called “The Mass Shooting Generation” and they demand change. They were born into a world reshaped by the 1999 Columbine High School attack that left 13 people dead. They have lived through the Sandy Hook shooting of six-year-olds and their teachers. They stood in fear and shock at the Stoneman Douglas high school attack in Florida.
In this generation, six-year-olds are forced to practice active shooter drills. Parents buy bullet-proof backpacks for their children. According to the National Center for PTSD, 28 percent of people who have witnessed a mass shooting will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and about a third will develop acute stress disorder Our children are suffering mental exhaustion.
Since Stoneman Douglas, these young people have organized around the country, meeting with state and federal legislators, calling for action. They do not want to hear, “You are in our thoughts and prayers” again. They want action to make schools, churches, concerts and shopping malls safer. They are tired of attending the funerals of their classmates and teachers.
Much time is spent organizing marches and demonstrations, giving tv and newspaper interviews, encouraging voter registration and educating the public on the need for legislation that addresses the causes of gun proliferation and violence. As in the past, they often hear empty slogans and promises.
“Code Red” has become a familiar sound for students, informing them that an active shooter is in the building. This is followed by calls to anxious parents, hoping this will not be the last communication.
According to the American Public Health Association, between 1999 and 2017 there were 69 high-fatality mass shootings, involving high capacity magazines, resulting in a 62% higher average death toll. Bans on high capacity magazines appear to reduce the incidents of mass shootings and the numbers killed.
What needs to happen? Congress needs to pass bills that eliminate the manufacture and sale of high capacity magazines and military-style assault weapons such as the AR – 15 and AK 47. Police around the country support this ban.
These weapons are intended for military use, and the only reason to have one is to kill many people in a short period of time. The 2017 Vegas concert shooting, which killed 59 people and injured more than 500, is proof of that.
Finally, Congress needs to pass a universal background check bill that requires anyone wanting to buy a weapon to pass a background check. At present, only 60% of those wanting to buy a weapon go through a background check; those purchasing a gun at a gun show are not required to go through a background check. Only 13 states have a universal background check in place. The Brady Bill, which provided for such background checks, was signed into law in 1994. allowed to expire in 2004 by the Republican-led Congress and President George W. Bush.
As common good voters in 2020, we are called to vote for senators and a president who will take protecting students and all citizens from mass shootings seriously, by enacting responsible, common-sense laws to stop the slaughter and to end the national “code red.”