We’ve all been there. Your principal comes over the loudspeaker and announces a code red lockdown. You and your classmates hustle to the designated corner of the room while your teacher frantically locks the door, turns off the lights, and shuts the blinds. You huddle together, never entirely sure if it’s just a drill. Maybe you texted your parents telling them you love them, just in case. Maybe you grabbed your backpack on the way to the corner to use as a shield, just in case. Maybe you bought a doorstop to keep in your backpack, just in case. This is the reality of being a student in America.
With the latest school shooting in Nashville, Tennessee, these lockdown experiences are fresh in my mind. I say that knowing that I am one of the lucky ones, because I’ve walked out unscathed from every lockdown I’ve ever been in. But the 6 people who were killed in Nashville were not so lucky. Neither were the other 193 people killed or the 425 people injured in school shootings since 1999. And neither were the nearly 350,000 American students who have experienced gun violence at school.
Why is that? Why do we as a nation continue to let our children get shot? Why are so many Republican politicians hellbent on clinging to their weapons of war at the expense of so many young, innocent lives? The simple answer is that the GOP does not care. Not about you, not about children, and certainly not about the marginalized communities who are disproportionately impacted by gun violence.
Just a few short hours ago from the time I’m writing this, Florida’s GOP Governor, Ron Desantis, signed a bill to allow Floridians to conceal carry a firearm without a permit. He had no qualms putting his name on that bill just one week after children were shot and killed in school. In the press photos, he’s grinning from ear to ear surrounded by National Rifle Association (NRA) leaders. Why is he so happy that his signature will cost lives? Because he doesn’t care whether you live or die, as long as he still has his “personal freedom” to own weapons capable of killing hundreds of people without skipping a beat.
Desantis’s response mirrors the apathy, hostility, and refusal to take action which has been voiced by other members of the GOP. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) refused to comment when asked what action Congress should take to address gun violence. Representative Andy Ogles (R-TN), who you may recognize from his AR-15 Christmas card, deflected questions about banning AR-15s and instead blamed the shooting on mental health. Senator Cynthia Loomis (R-WY) said “we can’t solve everything with legislation,” which is, frankly, an interesting take from someone whose job is to create and pass legislation. This pattern of response, or lack thereof, from the GOP illustrates one common theme: they don’t care.
And their response is the same after every school shooting. Thoughts and prayers are handed out like candy by Republicans, but they refuse to support legislation that would actually address the problem. They send their condolences only as a political strategy to protect their image, then dust their hands off and call it a day. It is selfish, ingenuine, and extremely dangerous. If they really cared about protecting you, they would have passed significant common sense gun legislation a long, long time ago.
With yesterday’s news that Representative Tricia Cotham of Mecklenburg County would be changing her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican, Republicans now have a supermajority in the North Carolina state legislature and can override Governor Cooper’s veto. In the near future, it is likely that Republicans will introduce, pass, and override vetoes on bills that would increase access to guns, an obvious threat to our safety and the safety of students across the state.
My plea to Duke students, and really anyone in North Carolina, is to stay vigilant and speak out in support of common sense gun legislation. Contact state representatives and get involved with advocacy efforts. And perhaps most importantly, register to vote in North Carolina and get ready for the 2024 election cycle. GOP leaders who don’t care about our lives have no place in our government.
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