On Wednesday, the unthinkable happened.
A very troubled, deeply disturbed man walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, pulled the fire alarm and waited as teachers and students poured into the hallways of the freshman wing building.
As they did, he shot them, killing 17 and wounding a dozen more, scarring a community. He was later apprehended by the police and is in custody.
He had been a student at that school, but had been expelled. He was known by the school and the community to be unstable, and even the FBI was contacted by someone close to Nikolas Cruz, reporting concerns about him.
We don't know everything, but we do know this: This is the worst of humanity. It is sickening and gut-wrenching and as a parent I don't even have the strength to fully confront it.
Of course, in the wake of yet another mass shooting we are all asking what can we do.
I don't have the answers -- as the mayor of Parkland herself said, "if a solution were simple for these things, we would have found one already."
I will offer thoughts and prayers, for starters. Not as an empty gesture. But because victims like Congressman Steve Scalise, who was shot by a sniper last year, have personally told me that that matters to them. I hope you do the same. Don't be bullied by people who say that's silly or meaningless -- it isn't.
It certainly seems like we need to find better ways to address the stunning commonality in all these mass shootings, which is that the men who perpetrate them are sick -- Las Vegas, Pulse nightclub, Newtown, Columbine, Charleston, Virginia Tech, Tucson, Aurora -- on and on, these killers were mentally ill and in almost every case, someone knew it.
Our communities must get better at solving this mental health crisis.
We should also be talking about better securing our schools. Every child should feel safe at school without feeling like a prisoner. Many of the surviving students at Parkland have talked about the safety drills and procedures they'd been taught saving their lives yesterday. That's good -- but a shooter shouldn't have been able to get in in the first place.
And finally, there IS a place for a discussion about guns. Mentally disturbed, violent people should not get guns. That's why gun groups like the National Shooting Sports Foundation have been working so doggedly to beef up the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System.
It appears that Cruz, who, authorities say, told police he carried out the mass shooting, got his gun legally. I don't know which, if any, systems failed him or us. But I do know that there isn't likely a law -- existing or imagined -- that would have prevented it. Anyone who says otherwise isn't being honest with you.
Speaking of honesty, if you're like me you turn on the news to get information -- a set of facts. If you want opinion, you come to shows like mine, where our prejudices and biases and opinions are made known; there's no false pretenses that you're getting pure objectivity.
Well, if you turned on cable news at any time since the shooting, it's safe to say you didn't get the news. That's because when it comes to guns, news anchors take off their journalist hats and put on their activist hats. And they do it without shame or disclaimers because they believe righteousness is the same thing as being right.
Many of these "journalists" blamed the gun lobby for what happened in Parkland. They blamed the NRA, which represents law-abiding gun owners like me. I'll say it again: LAW-ABIDING GUN OWNERS.
They blamed Republicans, because Republicans represent a sizable constituency of gun owners who already comply with thousands of Byzantine gun laws that criminals won't follow. And so Republicans lawmakers -- who do their jobs representing these constituents -- are the problem.
Republicans are also, these journalists will tell you, too afraid of the NRA to stand up to them. These journalists "courageously" take to Twitter to link GOP lawmakers with the money they've received from the NRA. What they never say is that the NRA is the reason we have a background checks system, and it's the gun lobby fighting for it to be enforced.
They, in fact, blame YOU. Because, without a law degree, they surmise, you couldn't really understand the Constitution. Your ill-conceived notion of what our Second Amendment rights mean is the problem, because you're too stupid to interpret it correctly -- you know, the way they do.
Then they put a Democrat lawmaker on air or a former Republican lawmaker who shares their point of view to complain that Republicans will never do anything about guns. They never, these journalists, ask those lawmakers what Democrats did about gun control when they had the White House, House and Senate for two years under Barack Obama. Because the answer is NOTHING.
These journalists never say: where was Democrats' courage? Were Democrats too afraid to lose their seats, like they did in 1994, to pass another assault weapons ban?
Instead they shake their heads, wag their fingers, look at the camera and tell us to "Shut Up." Because, journalism.
If they spend an hour blaming Republicans for the deaths of school children and calling their constituents too stupid to understand their own rights, they can't be surprised when Republicans don't want to come on TV for an interview.
Maybe if they stopped disguising activism as journalism those Republicans would talk with them. Maybe if they could have these conversations without offending half the country they would.
But that is not what happens. Instead, we keep having the same one-sided conversations on the news and then pounding our fists that nothing ever changes.
Look, this issue is hard. It's emotional. It's important. I want change as much as anybody. We'll never get it as long as these are the people leading the discussion.
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