Grownups Have Failed Our Kids On Gun Legislation

ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH GUEST COLUMNIST:

On March 14, tens of thousands of students across the country used their collective outrage and walked out of their classrooms in protest after the nation’s latest high school mass shooting. Why? As the “school shooting generation,” they are sick and tired of grown-ups doing absolutely nothing about the gun violence they have known their entire lives.

St. Louis students at Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School, Cardinal Ritter Prep, Hazelwood West, Grand Center Arts Academy and many more marched and observed 17 minutes of silence, one for each of those who were shot to death at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.

Clayton High School students continued their actions after initially holding a press event on campus a week after the school shooting. On the National School Walkout Day, they rallied, registered voters and were featured the entire day on MSNBC’s national coverage. More than 100 Washington University Medical School students participated by holding a “die-in” on campus to push for federal research into gun deaths.

How did my legislative colleagues react to the school shooting? Rep. Chuck Basye, Second Amendment Preservation Committee chair, invited the Missouri House on a tour next week of CMMG Inc., a leading manufacturer of AR-15 rifles, conversion kits and accessories, in Boonville, Mo. The gun of choice in mass shootings? An AR-15.

As Emma Gonzalez, a Stoneman Douglas High School senior and survivor, said in her national rally speech that went viral, I say BS.

Rep. Robert Cornejo, General Laws Committee chair, advanced a package of gun-lobby bills: “guns in cars” (HB 1865), “guns in churches, day cares, bars, colleges, etc.” (HB 1936) and prohibiting towns from regulating open carry of guns (HB 1937). In the public hearings, he included several Democrat-sponsored bills such as mine restricting ammunition sales to minors, copying federal law (HB 1342), but as expected, the Democrat proposals were voted down by a party-line vote.

The gun-lobby-sponsored bills will be up any day now for House floor debate and will have the vote of several Democratic and every single Republican legislator (as explicitly indicated in their state party platform). The governor will sign these into law because he said so in his machine gun campaign commercial. These bills are solely designed to increase firearm sales.

I say BS.

Last week I was verklempt watching national media coverage of students demanding elected officials do something, some risking disciplinary actions for leaving their classrooms. My heart broke seeing elementary students walking out all by themselves because they too wanted to be heard.

I am a state legislator in my last term after serving nine years. I first became involved in the gun violence movement 18 years ago after our 6-year-old daughter went on national television talking about guns in schools. Now she is a middle school counselor, still in the line of fire.

Grown-ups have completely failed our kids.

That is BS.

No student should have to experience lock-down drills, wondering if they should text their parents for the very last time under their desk. No student should be afraid at home, hearing gunfire nightly outside their windows. No kid should worry if they will reach adulthood, because an adult carelessly left a handgun for a toddler to reach or for a teenager to play with his friends or they simply were riding in a car at the wrong time.

Yet adults do nothing. I say BS.

 Adults moan little can be done even though less than 25 percent of them bothered to show up in the 2016 August primary when the majority of Missouri legislators in partisan districts were elected. Adults throw up their hands when candidates fail to say where they stand on gun violence as the gun lobby continues to buy those who will benefit their profit margin.

Adults moan that regulating firearms is an urban vs. rural issue, even though 80 percent of Missourians in every ZIP code want background checks on all gun sales. Keeping guns from domestic abusers and those on the no-fly list is also widely popular, no matter what county.

Adults moan that gun violence is a political issue while physicians and national medical organizations scream it is a public health crisis. Adults refuse to talk about guns as emergency room doctors and surgeons try heroically and often impossibly to repair lethal damage from assault-style rifles.

Members of Congress filed legislation just days after a dog died in an aircraft overhead bin. Kids being senselessly shot and killed? Nothing. Political issue, yeah right.

As a baby boomer who barely missed the Vietnam protests, I am grateful for this generation of student anger. Perhaps adults will finally stop cowering to the gun lobby.

As of March 18, almost 700 American kids have been shot and killed. Just this year.

I call BS.

State Rep. Stacey Newman is a Democrat from Richmond Heights.

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