Enough — Time to Tackle our Nation's Gun Problem
Generation Columbine at ETHS. Photo by Katelyn Varhely
Published in ChicagoNow, March 19, 2018
My grandkids are part of what has sadly been dubbed “Generation Columbine.” All of them were born after 1999. The kids who marched out of school on March 14 don’t know a country in which they didn’t have to “march for our lives.” I weep for this generation of children born after 13 were killed and 24 injured in a high school in Littleton, Colorado, born with the constant fear of being victims of gun violence in school or church or hanging out in a park, or even sitting on their front porch. Enough.
I live in Evanston, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago and home of Northwestern University. The pride and excitement I felt March 14 over the peaceful walkouts by Evanston Township High School (ETHS) students and my community’s middle school children evaporated within three hours. By 2:30, my granddaughter’s middle school was in a “soft” lockdown following reports of a shooting at nearby Northwestern University. Although the report turned out to be a swatting (there’s a new word for my vocabulary) hoax, it was a wakeup call. Gun violence can happen anywhere at any time. It threatens the life and safety of children everywhere. Enough.
Because of the slaughter of seventeen people on Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, we add Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School to the sad list of school shootings. Right now, we are focused now on the type of mass slaughter in which a deranged person with an assault rifle somehow breaches school security and mows down students indiscriminately. Think of how many of these shootings have happened since Columbine High School nineteen years ago. Enough.
Two years ago, Diane Sawyer talked about 50 mass murders or attempted mass murders at schools since Columbine, resulting in 141 deaths. Among these tragedies are the Red Lake Indian Reservation where seven people at their high school were killed on March 21, 2005. Two years later at Virginia Tech, 32 people were killed and 17 were injured. In April of 2012, seven students were killed at the Korean Christian College at Oikos University in Oakland, California. On Dec. 14, 2012, 20 young children and 6 adults were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On Oct. 1, 2015, nine people were killed at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Enough.
Photo by Katelyn Varhely
Add to this horrible epidemic of mass shootings the terror of kids who live with the potential of being shot on a daily basis. I have written many times about the how gun violence threatens the lives of children in the Chicagoland area every day.
On November 3, 2015, I reflected on the death of Tyshawn Lee, a nine-year-old boy who was killed in an alley walking to his grandmother’s house on the South Side of Chicago at about the same time I was worried about my granddaughter, who was the same age, being late to arrive at my house. In my post Gun Safety: A Tale of Two Grandchildren, I described the sorrow I felt for Tyshawn’s grandmother. When she heard gunshots, she knew there was a chance her grandson had been killed. As a fellow grandmother waiting for her grandchild to arrive safely from school, I could only begin to imagine her fear, but I can totally feel her grief. Our grandkids deserve a safer world. Enough.
In June of 2016, reflecting on the huge outcry over the shooting of a gorilla to save a small child who had fallen into his habitat, I wrote Guns Kill More People than the Gorilla Shot Memorial Day Weekend. Sixty-nine people were shot, and six of them died, over that same weekend in Chicago. Social media lit up over Harambe’s death, but where was the outrage about the Chicago shootings? Enough.
On what would have been John Lennon’s 77th birthday, October 9, 2017, I remembered the man who asked us to Imagine “all the people living life in peace” in the aftermath of the Las Vegas slaughter of 58 people attending a country music festival. Guns in America – Anyone May be the Next Victim was my cry for reasonable gun safety legislation. Thus far, over five months later, our political leaders have not even banned bump stocks. I feel more strongly with every passing day that guns in America are an epidemic now, and you don’t have to be famous to be shot dead. By the way, Lennon only made it to age 40, his life ended by a madman with a gun. Enough.
In poll after poll, 90 percent of Americans support expanded background checks. And yet, if Congress didn’t act after 20 first graders were slaughtered at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, why should anyone expect the massacre of 58 people enjoying a concert in Las Vegas or 17 at Marjory Stoneman High School will move the needle. Do they even care about the daily deaths of innocents every day on the streets of America? Or the huge number of suicides by guns? Enough.
When my twelve-year-old granddaughter and her middle school classmates walked out of school for 17 minutes on March 14, they felt proud of their action. They were making a statement for peace and gun control. The ETHS students staged a walkout that was larger in scope and student directed. I felt so proud of these young people. They filled me with hope. Then, reality sunk in when the shooting was reported at Northwestern University. My grandchildren are truly marching for their lives. Enough.
Nichols Middle School – my granddaughter is in there somewhere. Photo by Lynette Calucin Connell.
Soon, my family will gather to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover, which includes the song Dayenu (translation is “it would have been enough”) This year, when we sing Dayenu, I will think about the insane gun culture in our country and the unwillingness of Congress to take any meaningful action in the past nineteen years. It is with a profound apology to my grandchildren and their peers that I say my generation has failed them. Dayenu. Enough.