‘Where in God’s name is our backbone?’


Littleton, Colorado.

Newtown, Connecticut.

Parkland, Florida.

Uvalde, Texas.

In eight mass school shootings since 1999, 111 children and young adults and 13 faculty and staff members have now been sacrificed on the profane altar of the gun industry’s profits.

Fourteen children and three adults at our Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were among them. Four years later, Broward County still feels the shock and sorrow and the frustration of seeing nothing done where it must be — in Congress. The same holds true for the Central Floridians whose hearts are still burdened by the deaths of 49 people at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016.

The nation needs a ban on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and a buyback program like New Zealand’s, enacted after only one mass slaughter.

There must be nationwide mandatory background checks with no loophole for gun shows or private sales. Possession of an untraceable “ghost weapon” must become a crime. All states must be encouraged to enact and enforce “red flag” laws and to ban the purchase of any weapon by anyone under age 21, as Florida did after Parkland in 2018.

Otherwise, there will be more shock, sorrow, frustration and anger.

When will it end?

When we learn to love our children more than we love our guns.

When we care more for each other than for electing morally bankrupt politicians who propose only empty, phony, hypocritical “thoughts and prayers” in response to atrocities they are too stupid, cowardly or selfish to try to prevent.

Otherwise, there will be more dreadful datelines like Parkland and Uvalde, and more stories about massacres of innocent adults in places like Buffalo, El Paso, Las Vegas and Orlando.

There is no freedom from fear in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Amid such ineffable horror, the slaughter of children seems unspeakably blasphemous. Yet it keeps happening.

The common theme is a military-style semiautomatic rifle that no one outside the military or law enforcement needs to own in the hands of a deeply troubled young person. Such weapons are often illegal for hunting game, and useful only for killing people.

Congress once enacted a ban on making and selling them, but let it expire in 2004. It was a key part of then-Sen. Joe Biden’s anti-crime bill.

That’s why the Uvalde murderer, still too young to legally buy alcohol, could celebrate his 18th birthday by legally buying two of them and 375 rounds of ammunition. He was videotaped carrying at least one of the weapons into Robb Elementary School Tuesday.

“Where in God’s name is our backbone?” Biden asked Tuesday night.

The question is better put to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who once infamously tweeted that he was “embarrassed” because his state had fallen to second place in gun sales. He also signed a permitless “open carry” law.

On Tuesday, he used the word “incomprehensibly” in lamenting the slaughter of innocents at Uvalde, where a fourth-grader reportedly was shot dead while trying to call 911.

“Incomprehensibly,” said a Houston Chronicle editorial, is “just as much cowardice as it is a bald-faced lie.”

“Whether it’s a handgun, rifle or semiautomatic invented for war,” the editorial said, “the governor has supported and the Legislature has passed law after law that have obliterated any semblance of good sense regulation — laws so permissive that they’ve even defied the objections of police chiefs and gun safety instructors, including the 2021 permitless carry bill that the governor bragged on Twitter allows any eligible Texan to carry a gun in public with ‘no license or training’ needed. As though that were progress.”

It is just such a law that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — who sees himself as a rival to Abbott for the presidency — vows to bring to Florida.

Rep. Randy Fine, the Bully of Brevard, appeared to threaten President Biden in a tweet Tuesday.

“Try to take our guns and you’ll learn why the Second Amendment was written in the first place,” he wrote. Aside from being a gross distortion of history, it deserves a visit from the FBI.

Fine, the exploiter of “parental rights,” must not respect the right of parents to have their children come home alive.

His reckless talk misrepresents the issue. This is not about the Second Amendment but about what guns should be sold and what safeguards should protect us from those who carry them.

The NRA, the architect of America’s current reign of terror, was once a responsible organization devoted to gun safety.

It was co-opted by the gun industry. A properly cared-for firearm lasts forever, so the industry’s economic model depends on selling ever more guns to people who already own them.

“The gun manufacturers have spent two decades aggressively marketing assault weapons, which make them the most and largest profit,” Biden said. “For God’s sake, we have to have the courage to stand up to the industry.”

The gun makers have fostered two malignant fictions through their mouthpiece, the NRA.

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One is that the Second Amendment is absolute. The other is that the only antidote for gun violence is for more people to be armed. Look where that got us.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reported last week that the number of guns manufactured has nearly tripled since 2000, with 11.3 million put on the market in 2020. Semiautomatic handguns, just as deadly and much more concealable, are now outselling rifles. An estimated 400 million guns are in the U.S., some 70 million more than the number of people.

But it’s business as usual for the NRA, which is going ahead with a convention at Houston this weekend despite the tragedy in south Texas. Former President Trump is scheduled to speak, along with Abbott and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.

As communities mourn the dead, life goes on, normalizing what should not be. An NBA playoff game in Dallas Tuesday night should have been postponed.

In an emotional pregame interview, a visibly anguished Golden State Warriors coach and Orlando Magic alum Steve Kerr demanded that the Senate pass H.R. 8, the background check bill that the House approved more than a year ago.

“We are being held hostage by 50 senators in Washington who refuse to even put it to a vote, despite what we the American people want,” said Kerr, whose father, the president of American University in Beirut, was killed by gunmen in 1984. “They won’t vote on it, because they want to hold on to their own power.”

The Orlando Sentinel Editorial Board includes Editor in Chief Julie Anderson, Opinion Editor Krys Fluker, Viewpoints Editor Jay Reddick and El Sentinel Editor Jennifer Marcial Ocasio. The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Steve Bousquet, Deputy Editorial Page Editor Dan Sweeney and Anderson. Send letters to insight@orlandosentinel.com.

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