Posted in From Kentucky

On Marshall County High, Parkland, and the NRA

I remember the Heath High School Shooting of 1997, mostly because my babysitter at the time went to Heath. She lost people she knew, and when I asked her about it, she sobbed in the car on the way to her house. I felt guilty for days about it. I didn’t mean to make her cry, I was just curious, “Did you know them?”

Of course she did, it was a small school. Nicole Hadley, Jessica James, and Kayce Steger were known if not by name then by face. It was a small school in a small town, everyone kind of knew everyone. Shortly after that, our Hendron Lone Oak Elementary School principal gave speeches and had us go through lock down drills to “feel more secure.” Every year, those became an annual drill, just like a tornado or fire drill. I can do it all by rote with my students today. The sad thing is, our principal probably assumed he’d never see another school shooting like that in his lifetime.

Poor man couldn’t have know that only two years later, we would have the Columbine Shooting. Instead of three, the number went to fifteen. In response:

In 2000 federal and state legislation was introduced that would require safety locks on firearms as well as ban the importation of high-capacity ammunition magazines. Though laws were passed that made it a crime to buy guns for criminals and minors, there was considerable controversy over legislation pertaining to background checks at gun shows. There was concern in the gun lobby over restrictions on Second Amendment rights in the United States.[133][134] In 2001, K-Mart, which had sold ammunition to the shooters, announced it would no longer sell handgun ammunition. 

In other words for Heath High School, the big topics of debate were mental health and video games. For Columbine, the topic switched to gun control measures to keep guns out of the reach of teenagers. However, the gun show loop hole remained, and still remains to this day.

And then fast forward to now. Marshal County lost two of its students, Bailey Nicole Holt and Preston Ryan Cope, to a shooting. The conversation on gun control was minimal, much like before with Heath. Only recently after the Parkland shooting did a father of a gunshot victim, Jeff Dysinger, speak up and call the mass shooting crisis what it really is: an epidemic.

It is a stark contrast to the Parkland shooting. The conversation changed from “thoughts and prayers” to gun control with furious passion. Friends of the victims have stood up and demand action, legislative or otherwise!

Why? Why does Kentucky continually fall silent on gun control? Or so vehemently against it?

Comments on both the Marshall County High and Parkland shooting for both Lexington and Paducah outlets show people continually arguing for more guns. “Put more security in schools! Train teachers to use guns!” or “What about abortions?! Planned Parenthood kills more babies every year than mass shootings!”

Both arguments are seriously flawed. Putting more guns in schools won’t decrease threat levels, it will only increase the threat levels. Putting guns into the hands of any human, be it a security officer, a teacher, a principal, or a cop means there are higher odds of teenagers getting shot, not less. All of these roles are filled by people, humans who get angry, hold secret grudges, carry ill intent unknown to others. We’re demanding that we put more potential murder into schools to prevent potential murder, and that seems unsafe in the extreme.

The argument of Planned Parenthood “killing babies” is deliberately falsifying a comparison. Planned Parenthood is an organization that must abide by the laws of each state, and commits legal abortions with the authorization of doctors. We can argue morality or ethics on the termination of fetuses, but these procedures are often medically necessary. Sometimes fetuses cannot make it, sometimes the mother has cancer, we as citizens shouldn’t be judge and jury on women’s lives or their medical charts.

But we as citizens should be worried about another mass shooting.

Kentucky has twice lost children to shootings, and the odds of those being the last are slim. Although most other crimes in America continue to decline, mass shootings continue to increase every year.

The idea that children should be able to go to school without fear of getting mass murdered should be a common sense/bi-partisan issue. The Parkland Shooting victims deserve to have laws put on the books in remembrance of them, same for the babies we lost in Sandy Hook, same for the victims of the Orlando shooting, the Las Vegas shooting, Columbine, Heath…

All of these victims deserve better than our current state of legislation.

The second amendment exists for the purpose of a militia, to defend our own country against dictators (or would-be kings, actually). It wasn’t originally intended to be used for the purposes of our modern era (i.e. gun collecting, sharp shooting, etc.). Additionally, as gun tech continues to grow, as in we can kill a lot of people with a very simple automatic rifle or handgun, and our legislation should be updated in accordance with the leaps in these advances.

Yet, they haven’t, and that is in no small part thanks to the National Rifle Association (NRA).

The NRA holds a strong sway over the politicians currently elected into Congress, with its millions lobbied into politicians’ pocketbooks to keep the gun laws lax. Why? The reasons are varied.

Many average gun owning American citizens are under the impression that if legislation goes through, their guns will be “taken away,” or that it would spell the end for guns at all. In response to the Sandy Hook 2012 shooting, actually, NRA donations surged in response to the gun control debate following the tragedy. Propaganda made the rounds on the internet and paid for commercials from the NRA that the government would reverse the second amendment entirely.

According to CNNMoney:

The call for stricter gun control laws from leaders like President Obama in the wake of this tragedy fueled these fears and prompted the NRA to rally its members to fight against new regulations.

As a result, gun sales soared, and so did donations.

These donations are why even petitions get signed and protests get marched it seems like the NRA only gets stronger and stronger, not weaker. In the 2014 election cycle, over $22 million came from individual donations.

And to be clear, yes donations. According to its own website, “The NRA Foundation is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. Contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.” The NRA isn’t a corporation, it’s not a company, it’s a “charitable organization.”

The NRA’s charity efforts are…few and far between. Most of the information online routes the viewer to gun safety classes, but in actuality the charity really goes to, well, politicians and congress. The NRA focuses on this aspect the most, for while the individual donations are rising, the corporate sponsors are the consistent source of income.

The “Friends of the NRA” has both a corporate and industry supporter page. Industry supporters include affiliated knife companies and (a bit depressingly) YETI coolers. Smith & Wesson, Baretta, Midway USA, and Ruger are a few of the names listed as sponsors past and present. Technically, they sort of sponsor each other. “NRA APPROVED” gets a banner here and there, as if it’s the ultimate seal of approval for their firearms and firearm supplies. Interestingly, the company Baretta has stores around the world, from Paris to Moscow, selling not only firearms but also clothing for “hunting” (i.e. safaris). The NRA approved safaris include Ibamba Safaris and Numzaan Safaris.

Basically, the NRA speaks not really for the average Kentucky Joe with his one barrel rifle, it speaks for the companies that need lax gun laws to sell more guns. There are “international interests” at stake for the NRA, not just domestic. The whole argument for Second Amendment rights is really just a smokescreen to try and increase stock value.

They increase the fear mongering of “losing your guns to the government” so people will donate, they make arguments after tragedies that “more guns for security” in schools is the answer to all problems so they can sell those guns to schools, and they will encourage people to get all those “nice safety accessories” not for safety in hunting but because it’s just more money in the bank.

The NRA cause is just…money.

After the Parkland Shooting, everyone wants to know what they can do to prevent another tragedy. The answer lies in cutting off the funds from the NRA to Congress.

One answer is of course to vote out the ones who are already backed by the NRA. In other words, GO VOTE. But we also need to stop funding the NRA ourselves. Look over the lists of industry and corporate sponsors, don’t give any money to them or their affiliations. Call, email, Tweet, get the attention of these sponsors that you boycott them until they divorce from the NRA.

And lastly, we need to have a conversation about gun control. Not take away all guns, not all people who own guns are bad people discussion, a real dialogue about gun control. We need to change the legislation to reflect the times. Guns will only get progressively more deadly, easier to conceal, easier to pick up and shoot.

If we don’t make the laws now to prevent further tragedy, we will have one again and again. We’ve seen from the past two years alone that mass shootings have increased. Without gun control measures to limit guns sold at gun shows (perhaps along with caps on gun production) and more stringent background checks, we’re not going to see any change in that upward trend.

 

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Life in Japan suits me, so I write about it.

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