This is a different kind of column, in several ways.
It’s not just from me. It’s from the families of 19 fourth-graders murdered in Uvalde, Texas. And it’s from the parents and grandparents of every little boy and girl in America.
It’s not addressed to all readers of The Hill. It’s addressed only to members of the United States Senate. Especially to Republican senators, who have consistently voted against any sensible gun safety legislation. And to Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), who has repeatedly invoked the filibuster to prevent such legislation from even being debated on the Senate floor.
And it’s not just an opinion. It’s a fervent plea: For God’s sake, senators, make it different this time. Don’t let those 19 kids gunned down in Texas be buried and forgotten. Don’t let their families be shattered without taking action to lessen the chance that other families suffer the same pain.
We’re not naive. We realize, based on our history of school shootings, chances that any action will be taken in response to the Uvalde massacre are slim. Nothing happened after 13 people were killed at Columbine High School in April 1999; after 32 were gunned down at Virginia Tech in April 2007; not even after 20 first graders, 4 teachers, the principal and a school psychologist were shot and killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the parents of those kids came to Washington, begging senators to act.
And nothing happened in February 2018 after 13 students were killed at Stoneman Douglas High School and surviving students rallied 200,000 people to Washington in a “March for our Lives,” demanding action on gun control.
Still, we believe Uvalde could be and must be different. After all, that’s who we are as Americans. We see something wrong, we fix it. It’s unimaginable that we would have suffered the dreadful terrorist attack of Sept. 11 without responding in full force as a nation. Equally unimaginable that we would have just remained on the sidelines and watched Russia invade Ukraine without leaping to Ukraine’s aid. We didn’t turn a blind eye to those horrific events, and we must not turn a blind eye to this one, either.
Especially not when there are measures that can be taken which will make schools safer and protect our children, without in any way undermining what many believe is the sanctity of the Second Amendment. Starting with raising the legal age at which a person can legally purchase an AR-15 or any other assault weapon.
The gunmen in both Uvalde and the supermarket shooting in Buffalo were 18. Which should come as no surprise. As Nicholas Kristof reported in the New York Times, 18 to 20-year olds make up 4 percent of the population, but 17 percent of those who commit murder. If you’re not old enough to buy a beer, you’re not old enough to buy an assault rifle.
And why not universal background checks? You’re not going to get in political trouble with that one, senators. Ninety-percent of Americans support them. A majority also support so-called “red flag laws,” allowing guns to be removed from people suffering a mental-health crisis or involved in a domestic dispute.
These may be three small steps, senators. But they’re do-able. They all have popular support. And their passage would at least show that the Senate’s no longer indifferent to the slaughter of innocent children.
Everybody tells us, there’s no hope the Senate will act. But please prove them wrong. For God’s sake, this time, do something!
Press is host of “The Bill Press Pod.” He is the author of “From the Left: A Life in the Crossfire.”