On Feb. 14, 17 people, including students and staff members, were killed when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Later that day, conservative political commentator and notable Trump supporter Tomi Lahren took to Twitter to express her thoughts on the situation.
“Can the Left let the families grieve for even 24 hours before they push their anti-gun and anti-gun owner agenda?” she said. “My goodness. This isn’t about a gun, it’s about another lunatic. #FloridaShooting”
Dear Tomi Lahren,
I do not have a single problem with letting the families grieve. There is nothing that compares to the loss a loved one, and 24 hours of grieving would not even touch at the absolute devastation that the parents, children, brothers and sisters of the victims must be experiencing right now. But grieving and fighting for gun control are not mutually exclusive. I want to talk about guns right now so that we will not have to give other families 24 hours of grieving.
For the victims of the Parkland shooting, the conversation about gun control came far too late, not too early. However, it does not have to be that way for others. If we start talking now, we might not have to wait another few weeks until the next mass shooting, when you will most definitely come on Twitter to say that now is not the time to talk about gun control either. How long do you want us to wait? It has been more than five years since Sandy Hook, when Adam Lanza shot and killed 20 children between six and seven years of age and several of their teachers in an elementary school. And yet here we are today, with another mass school shooting under our belt. Every day that we delay stricter regulations on gun ownership, we are just waiting for another shooting to happen.
According to The New York Times, between Sandy Hook and Parkland, there have been 239 school shootings, 16 of which classify as mass shootings. Parkland marked the eighth school shooting, just this year, that has resulted in injury or death, according to The Guardian. This statistic really says something about our country, considering it was the 45th day into 2018.
Of course, despite this, you are ever the proponent of the argument that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Well, clearly. Guns, being inanimate objects, are not going to get up on their feet and start shooting people of their own accord. I am glad we have that established. It is people who use guns, and it is also people who have wielded their destructive power against others. But it would have been substantially harder for them to deploy that power on such a large scale if they did not have access to guns in the first place. What I am getting from you is that the #FloridaShooting, and I will say it again, the #FloridaSHOOTING is not about guns. Shootings do not happen without guns. The “lunatic,” that you say is the problem, first becomes one when Congress fails to pass laws regulating the sale of semiautomatic rifles. Had Nikolas Cruz not been able to acquire an AR-15 — had he walked into Marjory Stoneman Douglas with a knife, even — there may have been 17 less lives lost.
This is not to say that harsher gun regulations will eliminate murder entirely, which is what you seem to think we are arguing.
“If you think psychos, lunatics or terrorists will be stopped by your gun control measures or gun-free zones you’re either blissfully ignorant or living in La La Land,” you said in your Final Thoughts commentary on Fox News after the Las Vegas shooting on Oct. 1, 2017.
Gun control is not some magic solution that is going to make people suddenly morally upright. But if you look at the countries that have laws in place, you will see that it is not ineffective. Take Japan, for example. Buying a gun in Japan entails taking a training session, excelling on both a written exam and a shooting-range test and passing extensive background checks. The entire process could take up to four months, and even after a gun is procured, the use of it is heavily bound by firearm regulations, whereas in America, someone could get their hands on a gun within the day. According to The Washington Post, in 2015, the number of non-suicide gun related deaths in the United States was greater than 13,000. In Japan, simply as a point of comparison, there was one.
You were not alone in your attempt to shift the focus from gun control to mental health. President Donald J. Trump prefaced his official speech at the White House with this:
“So many signs that the Florida shooter was mentally disturbed, even expelled from school for bad and erratic behavior,” he said on Twitter, as he does. “Neighbors and classmates knew he was a big problem. Must always report such instances to authorities, again and again!”
According to The New York Times, in Nov. 2017, Trump gave a similar statement following the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. He said that the shooting was “a mental health problem at the highest level” and not a “guns situation.” You also said in the same Final Thoughts Commentary mentioned above that the implementation of gun regulations will cause “the only ones left with guns” to be “terrorists, criminals and lunatics.” Cruz was a legal gun owner. Mental health awareness is not unimportant by any means, but the fact of the matter is that someone somewhere deemed Cruz’s mind stable enough for him to be able to buy guns. And despite gripping so desperately onto the notion that shootings are a people problem and not a gun problem, one of the first moves Trump made as President was, in fact, to sign a bill reversing a rule that Obama had pushed for aiming to bar people with severe mental illnesses from buying guns. This effectively made it easier for Cruz to obtain a rifle, even with his mental health problems. Trump urges us to report people like Cruz to the authorities, but what good would that have done if, by current law, his possession of firearms is perfectly legal? In addition, according to The New York Times, the authority failed to act regardless. The FBI received a tip in January that Cruz had a “desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts” and warned of “the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” but the tragedy at Parkland unfolded without obstruction.
Ultimately, it comes down to whose rights America is willing to protect. The government could protect the rights of gun owners. It most certainly seems like it will, with one of Trump’s campaign goals pre-election being to end “the eight-year assault on Second Amendment freedoms” on the members of the National Rifle Association, according to NBC News. Sure, there are responsible gun owners, and it would be flawed logic to conclude that everyone who owns a gun is going to cause a mass shooting. But it is also flawed logic to deny that somebody who owns a gun could cause a mass shooting. The right to bear arms is at this moment infringing on the rights of children to a safe education. It is putting their right to live past school age on the line, and that should never, ever be the case. I am just 16 years old, and I have been alive long enough to witness seven of Gifford’s list of top 10 deadliest shootings in modern U.S. history play out on the television; and I have watched as Congress did nothing. Several of those shootings happened in schools and could have easily taken place in my own. On Oct. 1, 2015, there was a shooting at Umpqua Community College, just 70 miles south of Eugene.
So I want to ask you, Tomi Lahren. Where will you go from here? Right now, the “Left” is advocating for Congress to monitor or ban the sale of semiautomatic weapons because they endanger the lives of innocent children. But what about you? What will you be doing after your 24-hour grieving period? If you still insist on offering your condolences to the families of the victims in a form other than gun control, I suggest you do through an apology: a “sorry for being unwilling to protect your loved ones.”