WINDHAM — The U.S. spends $1.73 trillion a year for national defense, but we cannot protect our children from being shot in school. The recent carnage at the Covenant School in Nashville - the 13th school shooting this year - proves again that all children are vulnerable to this madness.
Twenty years ago, the gun industry began to aggressively market assault-style weapons, particularly the AR-15, which became a cash cow. Today, one of every four guns made in the U.S. is an AR-15. Although it's designed to rapidly inflict mass casualties in combat, almost anybody can easily get one.
The Nashville shooter, despite being treated for an emotional disorder, had seven legally purchased weapons, including an assault rifle he used to kill six people. Thanks to our lax attitude toward firearms, gun makers have enjoyed record-breaking profits, and shootings have become the leading cause of death among American children and teens.
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Gun advocacy groups, like the National Rifle Association, know where their bread is buttered. They have systematically sold an extreme, warped interpretation of the Second Amendment to the American people because commonsense gun control would hurt the organization's bottom line.
Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA, has an estimated net worth of $20 million and flies his family around in private jets. Politicians, mostly conservative Republicans, benefit from NRA campaign contributions and lobbying efforts on their behalf.
This unholy alliance has blocked Congress from taking meaningful action to protect the nation's children, despite the fact that polls show the majority of the American people want something to be done.
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During the 1960s, massive protests, marches, and acts of peaceful civil disobedience, often led by students, helped end the Vietnam War and galvanize support for key civil rights legislation.
The American public needs to become similarly aroused today, and there are signs that it's happening.
Last January, Students Demand Action engaged in protests at the National Shooting Sports Federation trade show in Las Vegas. A few weeks ago, 1,000 students and teachers in Denver left school, walked to the statehouse, and demanded action for gun safety after one of their classmates was gunned down.
We need more direct action like this - a lot more.
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Sadly, things have devolved to the point where we also need police or trained security professionals (not civilian vigilantes or overworked teachers) on guard at every school in the nation, pre-K through high school. (Most colleges already have campus police.)
Even if we succeed in banning future sales of the most lethal weapons, so many remain in circulation that some inevitably will fall into the hands of deranged, would-be mass shooters.
Yes, it will cost a lot of money to provide this level of professional protection for our children. Maybe we need to cancel an aircraft carrier or get by with fewer F-35s at $135 million apiece.
This is the price we need to pay for handing out guns like Halloween candy to anybody who wants one.