Mass shootings are as American as imperialism and apple pie. And by George, here we go again; yet another school mass shooting in the United States of America. Just two months have passed since this plague of violence visited the grounds of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School located in Parkland, Florida. Ironically, only a few days before this violent act, Parkland was ranked as the safest city in Florida and the 15th safest in the United States. Now, it has the grim distinction of having the fifth deadliest school shooting in the history of the United States.
Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Umpqua, Red Quake, Isla Vista—in the past 20 years, the US has had a series of unfortunate school massacres. And that does not even include other mass shootings that have happened outside of schools. In fact, three of the five deadliest mass shootings in US history-Las Vegas, Orlando nightclub and Sutherland Springs-have transpired within the last two years. To make things worse, the Parkland tragedy was already the 17th school shooting in just the first 45 days of 2018.
In search of answers
The events of February 14, 2018 took away the lives of 17 people and caused physical harm to 17 more non-fatal victims. But just as tragic, it has permanently taken away the innocence of some 3,000 young students who will have to live every single day for the rest of their lives with those mental scars. The memories of the sights and sounds of an AR-15 rifle ringing down their hallways, their friends and teachers laying down in pools of blood and death staying with them.
However, despite the heartbreak, there seems to be something different this time around. Sadness has turned into overwhelming anger. Politicians called for thoughts and prayers, but the students responded “Enough with the thoughts and prayers. We’re not gonna take it anymore. We demand action.”
The events in Parkland have forced both the leaders in government and the rest of the nation to ask the question that they have tried to avoid for so long: “How do we prevent another mass school shooting from ever happening again?” In town halls with President Trump and Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, the survivors and their parents voiced out their many proposed solutions. They demanded metal detectors and increased school security. They pushed for stronger background checks for those who wish to buy guns.
The students and parents of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School also pointed to Australian gun laws as a possible model to solve this crisis. In 1996, the Port Arthur massacre claimed the lives of 35 people and injured 23 more after a gunman carried out an attack using two semi-automatic weapons. Subsequently, the Australian government urgently passed a law that restricted the sale of all semi-automatic weapons to private citizens. In addition, the government implemented a mandatory buyback of all the newly-banned guns from citizens. In total, the Australian government spent $ 500 million to buy back the over six hundred thousand surrendered guns. The result: Since 1996, Australia has had a grand total of zero mass shootings.
Give our teachers guns
Just a few short weeks after the Parkland massacre, and following listening tours with the families of the victims, studying the cases including the aforementioned Australian solution and debating on the different courses of action, the President and the Congress have finally come up with an agreement. This came as a surprise to many as in years past, proposed guns bills have never advanced due to lack of a consensus between the executive and legislative branches. But now, with Republican Donald Trump in the White House and the Republicans also controlling the Senate and the House, they have proposed and agreed upon a solution which they confidently expressed will keep schools safe and finally end school mass shootings once and for all: “Arm the teachers with semi-automatic weapons.”
The specifics of the new gun bill, which is now known as the “Trump Weapons Amendment”, requires all teachers serving in US public schools to carry a semi-automatic weapon at all times when in school premises. To ensure strict implementation, the bill will incentivize gun-carrying teachers and penalize those that come to school without guns. One of the said incentives was a $1 million reward to any teacher who successfully guns down a would-be school shooter. “It’s in a man’s conscience to have access to weapons and not use it to protect the kids,” said Rep. Lorenzo A. Tellano, one of the authors of the bill.
As a result of the impending passage of the bill-the final details of which are being hammered out in Capitol Hill-there’s a new retail entrant that awakens staggering shopping mall sales. Flocking to join the meter-long queues, the teaching staff and personnel of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School received access for discounted gun merchandise. Soaring past expectations, first day sales recorded higher figures than those from last year’s holidays. “We’ve never seen more eager shoppers and better discounts,” says Keegan, one of the retailers.
Initially, there were worries that gun sales would recede after protests by students were held outside shopping centers. But the complete opposite has happened as it was proven by record sales and overwhelming shopper attendance, gun shopping needs no marketing other than fear. “This isn’t just an illusion of security,” rebuts an impassioned gun store owner in Parkland. “We have a real problem that demands us that we fight back.”
Florida’s elected officials have expressed their support for the proposal. “I believe this is the solution to the school mass shootings that has eluded us for years. When a shooter comes in, the teachers need to be ready to step into the frontlines and take down the shooter, ” said Florida governor Rick Scott. Sen. Marco Rubio echoed the same sentiments saying, “We have to fight fire with fire. We can’t just simply pray and wait for the police to come as the shooter fires down shots on our kids,” The National Rifle Association also gave a ringing endorsement to the proposed bill. “Our teachers have a right to be armed, for those qualified to have access and use it for their protection if the situation demands,” said NRA EVP Wayne LaPierre.
A good guy with a gun
Congress is expected to pass the “Trump Weapons Amendment” within the next few days and the POTUS is expected to sign the bill into law immediately after. Congress also plans to allocate $2 billion worth of taxpayer money to subsidize the semi-automatic weapons to be used by teachers. Rep. Ted Deutch, who represents the district which includes the City of Parkland, has questioned the congressional majority on why they pursued a policy arming teacher than restricting guns. But House Speaker Paul Ryan reasoned that “We can’t stop people from having semi-automatic guns. It is unreasonable to expect the government to be able to do that. Besides, we have to remember that guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” However, the Speaker did add that “We need to protect our kids and find a way to stop these murderers. And I think we can all agree here that the only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas have also expressed their strong doubts, if not outright opposition, to the President and Congress’ new solution. They pointed out problems with the proposal such as what would happen if a teacher becomes the shooter and turns the gun on the students? President Trump responded by pointing out that, “Under the old system, we would have to wait for the police while the students get slaughtered. Now with this new tremendous bill, teachers in the next classrooms would be able to fire back-bing, bang, bang-done and the attack is stopped.” Trump also pointed out that an added benefit of having guns inside classrooms is that it would help teachers discipline the kids and improve their behavior. “Our kids now, they’re not tough. They don’t know the meaning of discipline. They’re too noisy. You know back in the old days, our teacher would hit us and it made us tough. But now, students are all over the place. But when they see that gun, oh boy, things are really gonna change. Believe me!” said the President.
After the writing of this piece, the “Trump Weapons Amendment” was signed into law on April 1, 2018. The House voted in favor of the measure 238-193 and the Senate approved it by a margin of 51-49 across partisan lines. Shortly after signing the bill, President Trump tweeted “This is a beautiful bill which by the way, has a fantastic name. Lots of presidents have tried to pass this bill before but failed. But I was the first President to be able to make a deal for the kids, which a lot of people say is a tremendous thing. #MAGA”